The Destructive Legacy of Pablo Escobar
AUSTIN — Earlier this month, former DEA agents, Steve Murphy and Javier Pena spoke about the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar; one of the most influential drug kingpins of all time.
Today, thanks in large part to Murphy and Pena, Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel he pioneered are dead, but their legacy remains alive and impactful.
“Death and Destruction. That is the legacy of Pablo Escobar,” Murphy said to a packed Hogg Auditorium at the University of Texas.
“Pablo Escobar was the inventor of Narco terrorism. In his lifetime he killed between 10,000 to 15,000 innocent people,” Pena said.
Murphy and Pena are portrayed in leading roles on Narcos, the Netflix hit series about the rise of cocaine trade in Columbia.
U.T. students, including Dreia Carrillo, an Astronomy Ph.D. student, were ecstatic to see the DEA agents in real life after watching them on TV. “I was the first person in line. I couldn’t believe I would have the chance to see and hear my favorite DEA agents in-person,” Carrillo said.
Seeing the real Murphy and Pena shed a new light on Narcos and Pablo Escobar for many in the audience including Carrillo. “I left the show with a different perspective on Escobar. The talk helped me understand the human toll of his operation, beyond just those who were killed,” she said.
Because the narrative in Narcos is exaggerated for T.V., it may inadvertently glorify the luxuries of Escobar’s lifestyle while failing to convey the humane consequences of his destruction.
“About a third of the show is actually true. The 2nd third, well those events happened but not quite the way it’s depicted in the show. Then that last third, that’s just straight up Hollywood make-believe,” Murphy said.
Murphy and Pena told multiple stories about meeting people who have been impacted by Escobar while giving speeches on the road.
In 1989, Escobar and the Medellin cartel orchestrated the bombing of a Colombian domestic plane in route to Cali, Columbia, in hopes of killing presidential candidate César Gaviria.
It turned out that Gaviria wasn’t aboard, but many innocent Colombians were, including the Uncle of a woman Murphy and Pena met while speaking in Germany this year.
“After the show, a young lady came to us and said her uncle had been on that plane…There’s always a human side to the story,” Pena said.
In Norway, they met the nephew of Columbian Minister of Justice, Rodrigo Lara, who was killed for threatening to extradite Escobar. “He told us about how Pablo Escobar wanted all of his family killed. 20 members had to leave Columbia for Norway," Pena said.
Narcos just aired its 3rd season and there are several movies due to come out this year about the Columbian drug scene. Although the entertainment world continues to embrace it,
many remain burdened by the legacy of Pablo Escobar and the culture of drug trafficking he helped create.