Pablo Escobar, the story of an incredible hunt - The360 PlayBuzz

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  • Wednesday, November 6, 2019

    Pablo Escobar, the story of an incredible hunt

    Pablo Escobar, the story of an incredible hunt

    On December 2, 1993, the drug lord was shot dead by the Colombian police. The two American agents who brought down public enemy No. 1, and inspired the series Narcos, tell of the eighteen months of a merciless hunt.

    On December 1, 1993, listening trucks packed with Colombian police took up positions on the heights of Medellín. In the middle of the ghetto, at the heart of this drug trafficking that eats as much as it enriches Colombia. The atmosphere is feverish. The police are excited, but also exhausted by the long years spent tracking "Pablo". Pablo Escobar, the emperor of drugs and then the seventh richest man in the world, who will celebrate his 44 years in a moody climate. He has not seen his family for a year and a half. He drinks, smokes marijuana and is more than ever unstable, dangerous and on the alert. He lives in this district of Los Olivos, the police are certain. But where exactly, they ignore it. Public enemy No. 1 may be about to make a mistake, to cross the yellow line. The next day, "El Patrón" wakes up, as usual shortly before noon, eat copiously - he has taken ten kilos since his escape in June 1992 - then makes young girls come up. He then calls his secluded family on the 29th floor of the Tequendama Hotel in Bogotá, where, at the height of his glory, he was giving bling-bling parties, pretending to be a journalist. In trucks, the pressure goes up a notch.

    Hugo Martínez, a young Colombian officer who has watched the neighborhood for most of the night, is woken up by his father, who heads the "Bloc de recherches", an elite commando team entirely dedicated to Escobar's quest. "Pablo speaks! Exclaims Martinez, father. The police have been waiting for this moment for weeks, and this time it may be the right one. Hugo Martínez starts his truck and begins to walk along hundreds of charming pavilions to get closer to the signal. But it is still impossible to determine from which house the call comes. Yet, at the entrance to the street 79A, as a hunter feels its prey, Hugo has a presentiment: Escobar is close ...

    Suddenly, a curtain flinches in house 45D-94. Behind, a massive figure, become familiar after all these years of investigation. It's Escobar, on the phone. " We have it ! He is in his house! Shouted the young lieutenant on his radio while instantly fearing the smuggler would spot his white Volkswagen van. Especially since it carries an antenna at arm's length to capture the waves closer - we are in 1993, far from the technologies of the XXI century. But "El Patrón" does not notice anything and hangs on the phone. "We wondered for a long time why he did not react, remembers an agent. But the conversation was serious. He was focused. He gave orders to his son Juan Pablo, 17, to call the President of the Republic directly to negotiate. "

    After ten minutes of surveillance, a column of police arrived reinforcements follows a "ram" that smashes the heavy steel door of the house. Six men rush to the ground floor. Empty. But they discover Pablo's taxi in the garage. Suddenly, it moves above their heads. To cover the escape of his boss, El Limon, "Le Citron", Escobar's closest sicario, shoots and jumps from the second floor to the street where, perched on their cars, twelve heavily armed police officers empty their shippers. The body of Limon, riddled with bullets, freezes before rolling in the grass. That's when Pablo comes out...

    It is necessary to measure what represents, at the time, the legend Escobar. When he escaped from prison on 2 June 1992, he has already served eleven months of detention. He cleverly negotiated his remission and the absolution of all his crimes (narcotrafic, assassinations, kidnappings, etc.) against a five-year symbolic sentence which he served at Catedral, a bar-less establishment built by him. A prison that only has the name because it gets distracted with girls, feasting on lobsters, he comes to football teams to play with him and always runs, at a distance, the biggest Cocaine cartel of the planet.

    Despite this rather pleasant life, Pablo cracks and murders violently two of his associates he suspects of stealing. As soon as the Colombian president gets wind of these crimes - despite the cremation of the two bodies - he sends the army to transfer the public enemy No. 1 in a real prison. But when the first Jeep arrived, the drug trafficker and his sicarios evaporated in nature via a maze of undergrounds. Excited by the hundreds of assassinations, the car bombs and by this lamentable snub, the government reinstates the extradition and finally accepts the American help to finish with Pablo. The manhunt can begin.

    A commando of 600 men

    Two American policemen, Javier Peña and Steve Murphy, begin the "mission" of their lives. These two detectives of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) are the only US agents directly sent to the Research Block while dozens of their colleagues are deployed in the air, at the embassy, ​​etc. Tucked away in the former Holguin Police School in Medellín, this six hundred-man elite commando was formed by US special forces for the sole purpose of capturing Escobar. At the end of 2016, GQ was able to meet these agents, central characters of the series Narcos and for which they were advisers on the seasons 1 and 2. They told us this incredible hunt.

    Steve and Javier first succeeded in mutating the Bloc director of the time, deemed "too weak for the job". "He refused to intervene at night! Steve still chokes. Then the US Embassy creates a toll-free number to collect information about Escobar. Finally, the US administration draws its best asset: five million
    dollars are promised to anyone who will help capture "Pablo". In addition, Americans know that "Colombians prefer to confide in gringos", reputed to be less corrupt than the local police. But, in return, Peña and Murphy have to share their tips with their Colombian colleagues. To break this nascent alliance, Pablo Escobar, still on the run, prefers the strong way and does not hesitate to terrorize the population.

    Their arrival in the Research Block is a form of consecration for Peña and Murphy. The two agents have been tracking the Medellín cartel for a long time. The eldest, Javier, roaring quarantine, discovered Escobar when he arrived in Bogotá. Fell in the fight against drugs "because it paid better", this chicano, born in Hebbbronville, Texas, one hundred kilometers from the Río Grande, was chosen for its ability to blend in with the landscape. Which is less true for Steve Murphy and his blond Guinness drinker mustache.

    100 Dollars per policeman shot

    But, assures him who never separates from a dictionary of Spanish, I am tenacious and methodical. If I had suspected you, from our first meeting, I would have known everything about you. Trained as Peña at Quantico's DEA Academy (where the FBI also sits), he spent four years in Miami before joining the Andes. "We had weapons, we were investigating under cover. Four to six hundred kilograms of coke were intercepted every week! It was Miami Vice, without the pink jackets or the Ferrari, "says Murphy, who ended his career at a senior post of the DEA. He saw, day after day, the rise of coke and Escobar. "In Miami, only the little dealers were shooting at each other, and it was pretty rare. But in Colombia, the guys started killing each other in the middle of the day in the malls! Slowly, the "white" has invaded everything. "We were celebrating when we managed to intercept a hundred pounds! Steve recalls. "Even though the cartel produced two and a half tons a day and held ten to thirty hidden in the jungle permanently! Javier teases him. Escobar the nargues. We must change gear.

    Since his escape from the Catedral, Escobar has become the top priority. And in this extraordinary pursuit, intelligence is a major issue. Murphy and Peña rely on a large network of informants but often find themselves facing their corpses: "Pablo killed me six, recalls Javier. I also heard him say, speaking of an informant: "Do not kill him. We will first torture him. "On a recording where he speaks with his wife, we hear moans in the background.
    Escobar, his hand on the handset, asks that the guy be gagged. And he resumes his conversation as if nothing had happened ... "

    For its part, the drug lord has an informal army of three to five hundred sicarios. He recruits them in person at Terraza, a church where he summons hundreds of candidates. He kisses the lucky ones, gives them money and knows how to motivate his troops. "We stopped a sicario who told us how much he loved Pablo. He said he was ready to die for him, recalls Peña. The boss gave him money. The essentials went to his mother and with the rest he bought some jeans and beers. The teenager confessed to killing ten police officers for a reward of one hundred dollars per head. That's why Pablo was walking without fear in his hometown. "

    Transvestite woman in a taxi

    The boss of the cartel thanks his most zealous killers. "At La Catedral prison, Javier added, we found leather-bound comics, autographed with his hand, a gift of choice for his favorite sicarios. Besides, he loved to sign. We even found a paper taped on the glove box of his sister's car, which read: "Avoid problems. Do not touch this car. It's my sister's property. I am Pablo Escobar. "What better insurance? Asks Javier.

    To counter this unstoppable force, the United States puts their technology at the disposal of Bogotá. In addition to satellites, the DEA has "two King Air (dual-turboprop aircraft, ed) and a glider Schweizer, silent and able to fly twenty-four hours. At the time, it was a secret, "says Murphy, suckling his havana. The strategy defined by the two agents is to reach the "command structure of the organization" by intercepting communications. "We knew his family, his relationships, his parties," explains Javier. Knowing he could be heard, he used codes. For example, when he said, "We're going to send thirty heads of cattle to the two towers and the beach," it meant that thirty kilos of coke were going to New York and Miami. "

    At the time, the 4G does not exist and the cartel communicates by radiotelephone. The CIA has certainly advanced equipment, but the work remains titanic. "You had to scan thousands of radio frequencies. As soon as we heard a voice like Pablo's, we compared it to recordings. As soon as the identification was confirmed, the intelligence warned the police to determine the frequencies used, "said Murphy. An arduous task that uses triangulation ... Simple on paper, this technique requires however to send discreet vehicles, with antennas, to get closer to the signal and locate it, like Hugo Martinez on December 1, 1993 Alas, identification, interception and triangulation do not always work and the Bloc often arrives too late. When the cops do not burst, heavily armed, in the home of a family terrorized and innocent! Or when we do not deploy dozens of police and dogs in the mountains, to no avail. The Bloc also discovers that Pablo phone in motion, sometimes disguised as an old woman in a fake taxi driven by his faithful Limon to scramble the tracks ... Despite periods of discouragement, the descents are daily. "We were going into operation with the police with a three hundred thousand dollar contract on our heads," says Murphy. We only survived thanks to the police officers who were protecting us. They would have been killed for us. The operations are often helicopter-borne to reach the narcos quickly and by surprise. "When they heard the chopper, people were running away. On the labs, we sprayed with the machine gun to discourage less fearful, says Steve. We had a lot of losses in operation. the guys went out almost every day. We lost friends. Often, the info is wrong. And when the hose is reliable, it is often already stale. Medellín is a big city full of indics. "It was hard to arrive without anyone noticing it yet! We missed him just fifteen times, "says Steve. Especially since most of its eight hundred properties are full of hiding places and tunnels. And impossible to have the plans: "Escobar took care to eliminate his architects to avoid these small indiscretions," says Javier.

    "Policia! Hijo de puta!

    The police, however, can count on an unexpected ally: the cartel of Cali, delighted to avenge his ruthless rival. Thus, in February 1993, a series of attacks broke out. In grisly settings, we find the corpses of sicarios or relatives of Escobar, with, around the neck, ironic signs bearing the inscription "Pepes" - acronym for Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar for "those who are persecuted by Escobar ». And assassinations are going well, up to six some days. Los Pepes also offer rewards and receive the help of paramilitary (AUC) led by the Castaño brothers. Contrary to Narcos's scenario, "we did not know at the time that Don Berna (an ally of the Castaño brothers, editor's note) was in charge of a death squad," says Peña. We did not know he was one of the biggest traffickers until after Pablo's death. He was sentenced to thirty years in the USA ... At the time, he was authorized by the Attorney General of Colombia, Gustavo de Greiff, to inform the Bloc. But he was just an informant. Which is already a precious help from such a trafficker. Sixteen months after his flight from Catedral, the "most wanted drug lord" is still at large. In October, the rewards rise to six and a half million dollars. In late November, persecuted by the Pepes and under house arrest in a luxury hotel, the Escobar family is about to crack. The investigators feel that there is a flaw to exploit. "Our strategy is to do everything we can to separate them," says Javier. While trying to flee for Miami, and despite their visa, Javier makes them off the plane: "The image of Manuela, with his pacifier and his rabbit and Juan Pablo, on the tarmac, still haunts me" , remembers Javier. Later, the family managed to fly to Frankfurt. Before being expelled ... "As soon as he arrives in Medellín, Juan Pablo calls his father," also recalls the former DEA agent. The trap closes. Helpless and surrounded, Pablo begins to commit imprudences. In four days, he calls his wife, son, and daughter six times. In the Bloc and in the listening trucks, the mobilization is general. And it pays. US intelligence finds the right frequency after Pablo, in a new call, has exceeded the two minutes regulation to avoid triangulation. This is how Hugo Martinez, who, in early December, spends his days on the hills of Los Olivos, above Medellín, has finally found Pablo ... Who tumbles in turn. Engaged in a shirt and jeans too small, he tears his flip flops and tries, too, to flee through the roof. He saw Limon being shot like a rabbit and running along the wall to protect himself. The shots stop for a few seconds. Out of the blind spot, he tries to gain another roof, a pistol in each hand shouting: "Policia! Hijo de puta! ". Before falling under a fed grape. Still in the house, six policemen approach the roof and are under fire. Believing themselves under the fire of Pablo's men, they ask for help by radio. For several minutes, the automatic weapons answer each other, until everyone realizes that the police pull ... on the police!

    Innocent people slaughtered

    Once the weapons are silent, Major Aguilar runs to the body and returns it. The bloody face does not prevent him from recognizing Pablo. The man who shook Colombia for ten years is dead. "Viva Colombia! We have just killed Pablo Escobar! He shouts in the radio to Colonel Martínez. The autopsy reveals that Pablo was hit three times: above the right knee, above a scapula. A third bullet crossed his brain with a strangely precise trajectory from the right ear to the left ear ... Ironically, neither Peña nor Murphy attended the final assault. On the wrong track, Javier is on a plane to Miami. And, dispatched by his embassy to confirm the identity of the dead, Murphy arrives on the scene only half an hour after the events.

    On the spot, Steve discovers that the policemen have cut the mustache of Pablo to the Hitler, while others, grouped around the "trophy", savor merry whiskey. "In some photos, people seem happy, Steve says. It might sound morbid but we smile because we realize that from this day on, Colombia will be safer. "Pablo would be responsible for ten to fifteen thousand dead, mostly innocent," says Javier. Killing Escobar has always been everyone's wish. "

    In late 1993, Medellín is the world capital of crime with up to three hundred homicides per weekend. The following year, the rate falls by 80% ... However, the death of Pablo does not stop the cocaine trade nor slows it down. In 1994, between two hundred and three hundred and forty tons of cocaine are available in the US - 80% of which comes from Colombia. In reality, only the balances of the forces involved have changed. The death of Escobar only left the field open to the cartel of Cali who could weave his web within the police and the power. A few months after Pablo's death, "narco-cassettes" show that President Ernesto Samper received 3.5 million dollars for his campaign from Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, one of the co-founders of the Cali cartel.

    Steve and Javier had a party the day after Escobar's death. Then they took a two-week vacation before returning to Bogotá, this time to dismantle the Cali cartel. Drugs have always been part of their lives ... "The war is not over," Steve concludes. We must focus on education, find new ideas. I am not accusing anyone (silence is prolonged) but I accuse myself because at the moment I am speaking to you, my son is in prison for heroin use."

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