Understanding complex perception centering Pablo Escobar


For the last few days after watching several web-series on Pablo Escobar, so many questions have been circulating in my mind. During each of the episodes of those web series – I asked myself – was Pablo Escobar an angel or a devil.

Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, one of the most infamous drug lords in history, is a name that instantly evokes strong emotions and memories. His criminal empire, responsible for vast amounts of violence, drug trafficking, and corruption, brought unimaginable suffering to Colombia and beyond.

However, it is puzzling to note that even amidst his reign of terror, a portion of Colombians consider Pablo Escobar as an almost mythic figure, often referred to as an “angel”. This perplexing sentiment raises questions about the intricacies of public perception, historical context, and the psychological factors that contribute to this perspective.

To fully comprehend why some Colombians regard Pablo Escobar in a favorable light, it’s crucial to delve into the historical context of his rise and fall. Escobar’s actions emerged during a tumultuous period in Colombia’s history, characterized by political instability, poverty, and crime. In the eyes of some Colombians, particularly those who felt marginalized by their government, Escobar became a symbol of resistance against a system they believed had failed them.

According to some of his critics, during the height of his power, Pablo Escobar smartly manipulated public opinion through acts of philanthropy, constructing houses, schools, and hospitals in poor neighborhoods. These actions, while fueled by his immense wealth from the drug trade, created a narrative that portrayed him as a Robin Hood-like figure, providing for those who had been neglected by society. This narrative has endured to some extent, despite the undeniable destruction he caused.

Others say Pablo Escobar, who hailed from a poor family, was having natural sympathy for the poor and less-privileged classes of the society and always tried to help them financially and otherwise.

The psychology behind viewing Pablo Escobar as an “angel” is complex and multifaceted. One significant factor is the human tendency to simplify narratives and gravitate towards hero-villain dichotomies. In this case, some Colombians may choose to emphasize certain aspects of Escobar’s actions while downplaying or ignoring the atrocities he committed. This selective perception allows them to create a more palatable image of him as a benevolent figure.

Moreover, nostalgia can play a powerful role in shaping public sentiment. Over time, memories of the violence and chaos may fade, leaving behind a romanticized version of the past. This phenomenon is not unique to Escobar; it has been observed in various historical contexts, where individuals and events are remembered more kindly as time passes.

Media portrayal and cultural factors also contribute to the perplexing perception of Escobar. Television series like ‘Narcos’ have garnered international attention, humanizing Pablo Escobar and presenting a dramatized version of his life. While such shows aim to capture the complexity of his character, they can inadvertently reinforce the idea that he was a charismatic and influential figure.

Additionally, Escobar’s legacy has been woven into Colombian popular culture, with music, literature, and art often romanticizing his story. Such creative interpretations can amplify the sympathetic view of him, especially among younger generations who did not directly experience the horrors of his reign.

Was Pablo Escobar helping Colombian poor people?

Yes, Pablo Escobar did engage in philanthropic activities that were directed towards helping the poor in Colombia.

During his time as a powerful drug lord, Pablo Escobar did establish housing projects, schools, and other public facilities in impoverished neighborhoods. These acts of charity were often presented as evidence of his concern for the well-being of the less fortunate.

For some Colombians who were struggling with poverty and marginalization, these actions created a perception of Escobar as a “Robin Hood” figure, providing for those who had been neglected by the government and society.

Escobar critics say it’s crucial to view these philanthropic efforts within the larger framework of Escobar’s criminal activities. His immense wealth was primarily generated through illegal drug trafficking, which caused widespread violence, addiction, and social destabilization. The harm caused by his actions far outweighed any short-term benefits from his charitable activities. In many cases, these acts of philanthropy were also a strategic way for him to gain support and loyalty from local communities, effectively using them to shield himself from law enforcement.

Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, was the leader of the Medellín Cartel. Responsible for countless deaths, drug trafficking, and corruption, his criminal empire wreaked havoc on Colombia and beyond. Amidst this dark legacy, an intriguing and often debated aspect of Escobar’s persona is his engagement in philanthropic activities.

But at the same time, it is essential to mention that Pablo Escobar’s philanthropic ventures were multifaceted, encompassing various projects that purportedly aimed to uplift disadvantaged communities. Housing developments, schools, and hospitals were established, creating a narrative of a compassionate figure who cared for the poor.

In Colombia, many of the housing projects built by Pablo Escobar were part of a larger scheme to secure the allegiance of local communities.

Escobar’s philanthropic activities extended beyond Colombia’s borders, with reports suggesting that he donated money to various causes in other countries, including neighboring nations in South America.

One of the most enduring aspects of Escobar’s philanthropic legacy is the comparison to the legendary figure of Robin Hood. Some Colombians saw him as a modern-day Robin Hood, taking from the wealthy and giving to the poor.

Why the drug trade in Colombia continued beyond Pablo Escobar’s death

While Western writers would say that the demise of Pablo Escobar, the leader of the Medellín Cartel, marked a significant turning point in Colombia’s history. The drug trade in Colombia persisted even after his downfall.

Colombia’s drug trade was deeply entrenched in the fabric of society, with complex networks that extended beyond Escobar’s control. His death left a power vacuum that other criminal groups were quick to fill. As the Medellín Cartel crumbled, new organizations, such as the Cali Cartel and various paramilitary groups, emerged to take its place. These groups capitalized on the country’s geographical advantages, including diverse terrain that facilitated drug cultivation and smuggling.

Additionally, the lack of strong governance and effective law enforcement contributed to the persistence of the drug trade. Corruption within law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, combined with a history of political instability, created an environment conducive to criminal activity. Weak institutions struggled to combat the deep-rooted drug trade, allowing it to evolve and adapt over time.

The demand for illicit drugs, particularly cocaine, continued to thrive on the global stage despite the death of Pablo Escobar. As long as there is demand, there will be supply. The high profitability of drug trafficking provided powerful economic incentives for various criminal groups to step in and take over the trade. The vast sums of money generated from the drug trade could be used to fund other criminal activities and, in some cases, even influence local economies.

The drug trade in Colombia often found fertile ground in regions plagued by poverty and limited economic opportunities. Many rural communities, lacking viable alternatives, turned to drug cultivation as a means of survival. For these communities, the trade provided much-needed income, further complicating efforts to eradicate it. Government initiatives to substitute illegal crops with legal alternatives faced numerous challenges, including inadequate infrastructure and insufficient support for affected farmers.

Colombia’s drug trade is intricately linked to global dynamics, including the demand for narcotics in North America and Europe. The interconnectedness of the drug trade makes it difficult for any single nation to eradicate the problem on its own. Efforts to dismantle drug trafficking networks in Colombia have been met with displacement and relocation of operations to neighboring countries, where law enforcement might be less effective.

The drug trade in Colombia’s resilience following Pablo Escobar’s death highlights the complexity of the issue and the multitude of factors that contribute to its persistence. Structural problems, institutional weaknesses, global demand, economic incentives, poverty, and international dynamics have all played roles in keeping the drug trade alive.

Meaning, Pablo Escobar was not the only figure in Colombia’s narco-trade. There were many more players, but the bitterest truth is – some of them were directly patronized by Western intelligence agencies as those agencies depend on drug-trade for generating cash that they need for covert operations. Most importantly, prior to his death in 1993, Pablo Escobar actually was the sole topic of media’s exposure, while Colombian authorities also were following the same path thus granting almost unchallenged opportunity for them in running drug trade and even trafficking drugs to various destinations in the United States. It is not impossible that mighty local and international partners of other drug cartels were using the media in particular in portraying Pablo Escobar as the lone monarch of the narco-world. Younger generation in Colombia needs to first of all understand this complex issue and reexamine the reasons behind Pablo Escobar’s excessive coverage in the media and his mysterious death.


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