Pablo Escobar: The Drug Lord The U.S. Couldn't Catch

By Karen Harris
Wall painting at the entrance of the 'Pablo Escobar quarter'. Source: (

Cocaine promised a party that might never end, and for Pablo Escobar, the drug lord who made a fortune off its sale, the same sense of longevity and even invincibility was justified. During the 1980s, cocaine was the wonder drug of choice, popular with an affluent and stylish clientele who weren't afraid to conspicuously consume it. Pablo Escobar, who started out as a common street criminal from Medellin, Colombia, recognized cocaine smuggling's profit potential early on and achieved immense wealth and power as the "King of Cocaine." Beginning in the mid-'70s, he built a multi-billion dollar empire, created the world’s largest drug cartel, launched the cocaine craze, and provoked the U.S. to respond with its so-called "war on drugs." Along the way, he cemented his reputation for being a shrewd and ruthless businessman who solved his problems with “plata” (silver, for bribes) or “plomo” (lead for bullets), all the while cultivating a Robin Hood-like philanthropic side persona. If you've watched the thrilling Netflix series Narcos, you might wonder whether the real-life Pablo Escobar was as dangerous and complex as he was portrayed -- the truth is, he was.