BOGOTA -- Almost two decades after he was gunned down on a Medellín rooftop, Colombia’s most notorious villain is being resurrected on national television. Pablo Escobar — the bloody and lavish drug lord who swamped the world with cocaine and left thousands of bodies in his wake — is getting his own biopic.
Since May 28, Colombia’s Caracol television has been showing its new series, Pablo Escobar: The Boss of Evil, to record-breaking audiences. Telemundo plans to broadcast the show, some of which was shot in Miami, in the United States later this year.
In a country awash in narco-novelas that glamorize the bloody exploits of fictional drug dons, Boss of Evil aims to be something different. The two creators of the show know Escobar’s violence firsthand.
Juana Uribe, Caracol’s vice president for programming, wrote and produced the series. Her mother, reporter Maruja Pachón, was kidnapped by Escobar. She later told her story to Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez who used it in News of a Kidnapping. Uribe’s uncle, presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, was murdered by the cartel. Her co-producer on the project is Camilo Cano, who was 20 years old when Escobar’s henchmen killed his father, the crusading director of El Espectador newspaper.
“We wanted to show the victims of this conflict and for the public to understand that there were brave people who stood up to the cartel, that these people also have stories worth telling,” Cano told The Miami Herald. “We’ve never been able to tell this story in Colombia, because in the midst of all the pain and trauma we never had a moment to step back and analyze the situation.”
In Cano’s case, he wanted to tell the story of his father, Guillermo Cano, the editor of one of Colombia’s leading newspapers who tried to raise the alarm about Escobar and his cronies. The scathing articles eventually drew the drug lord’s ire, and Cano was killed just days before Christmas in 1986, when his car was booby-trapped to explode.
Despite the satisfaction of sharing his father’s story to a new generation, the process was painful, Cano said.
“You can understand how difficult it might be to revive your father just to kill him again,” Cano said. “There was nothing cathartic about this.”
Based on the book La Parabola de Pablo by Alonso Salazar, the show traces Escobar’s rise from small-time thug and cigarette trafficker to becoming one of the richest and most powerful men in the hemisphere — traipsing through Miami, winning a seat in Congress, and famously offering to pay off Colombia’s foreign debt to avoid extradition to the United States. Along the way, Escobar’s largess — he built thousands of homes for Medellín’s poor — made him a Robin Hood figure to many.
But the producers say the show will highlight Escobar the sociopath: the man who ordered an Avianca airliner with 110 people on board to be blown up in hopes, it was said, of killing presidential candidate César Gaviria, who missed the flight.
Escobar tortured, kidnapped and maimed those who got in his way. Almost 1,000 policemen were killed after he put a bounty on their heads, Semana magazine reported. In all, Escobar is thought to be linked to some 5,000 murders.