- Library Binding: 296 pages
- Publisher: Paw Prints 2008-06-05; Reprint edition (June 5, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1435296648
- ISBN-13: 978-1435296640
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 449 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,613,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw Reprint Edition
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Readers of Black Hawk Down know Mark Bowden can tell an exciting story about as well as any writer at work today. Killing Pablo is further proof. It describes the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, a notorious Colombian drug lord who became one of the narcotic trade's first billionaires. Pablo--Bowden refers to him by his first name throughout the book--started out as a petty thief and wound up running a massive smuggling empire. At his height in the 1980s, he owned fleets of boats and planes, plus 19 separate residences in Medellin, each with its own helipad. Violence marked everything he did: "He wasn't an entrepreneur, and he wasn't even an especially talented businessman. He was just ruthless." He bought off police, politicians, and judges throughout his country, and killed many others who wouldn't cooperate. The Colombian government tried to capture him, but without much luck; he evaded them time after time. "Now and then the police achieved enough surprise to catch him, literally, with his pants down. In , about one thousand national police raided one of his mansions," writes Bowden. "Pablo fled in his underwear, avoiding the police cordon on foot." He got away, again, but his days were numbered. He was making powerful enemies in both Colombia and the United States. The final straw probably came when Pablo's men murdered a popular politician and, three months later, planted a bomb on a plane, killing 110 people, including two Americans.
The bulk of Killing Pablo describes what happened when the U.S. government put its resources behind the hunt for Pablo. Bowden describes the search in gripping detail, from the massive electronic-surveillance effort to bureaucratic infighting between rival U.S. agencies. This is an outstanding work of reportorial journalism, too: in the epilogue, Bowden drops tantalizing hints that it was an American--not a Colombian--who delivered the killing shot to Pablo in 1993. Readers looking for a real-life thriller--or any kind of thriller, for that matter--won't do much better than Killing Pablo. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
The author of the bestseller Black Hawk Down, which depicted the U.S. military's involvement in Somalia, Bowden hits another home run with his chronicle of the manhunt for Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. He traces the prevalence of violence in Colombian history as background, then launches into the tale of the dramatic rise and fall of "Don Pablo," as he was known. Packed with detail, the book shows how Escobar, a pudgy, uneducated man who smoked marijuana daily, ruthlessly built the infamous Medellin cartel, a drug machine that eventually controlled much of Colombian life. As Bowden shows, the impotence of the Colombian government left a void readily filled by Escobar's mafia. While not ignoring the larger picture e.g., the terrible drug-related murders that wracked the South American country in the late 1980s and early 1990s Bowden never loses sight of the human story behind the search for Escobar, who was finally assassinated in 1993, and the terrible toll the hunt took on many of its main players.. There's a smoking gun here: Bowden charges that U.S. special forces were likely involved in helping some of Colombia's other drug lords assassinate perhaps more than a hundred people linked to Escobar. There's no doubt, according to Bowden, that the U.S. government was involved in the search for Escobar after a 1989 airplane bombing that killed 100 and made him, in Bowden's words, "Public Enemy Number One in the world." This revelation highlights one of Bowden's many journalistic accomplishments here: he shows how the search for Escobar became an end in itself. (May 8)Forecast: Bowden will go on a monster tour (about two dozen cities) to promote this BOMC selection, which also has its own Web site (www.killingpablo.com). Expect healthy sales.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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This is absolutely fine if you are reading just to educate oneself or to gain information: I do want to do that, but I also want a little suspense on the way and to feel more involved in the characters described.
Bottom line is that I finished the book wiser, but it was a bit of a slog getting through it. A little more "novel" approach would have been good.
Escobar was a terrorist of the first order and the fear he sowed within Columbia through the brutal tactics that eliminated of enemies in the drug trade, those in the government, police, military and judiciary and even those in his inner circle whom he believed had betrayed him. The extravagance and sophistication of his operations that at one point made him one of the richest people in the world allowed him to buy off any obstacle in such an impoverished nation and engender loyalty among the masses because he used his dirty money to build infrastructure to provide schools, clean water and the like that the government had not proved capable of doing.
The mass corruption his cartel undertook is staggering and the control and fear exerted on Columbian society is mind boggling to consider. Escobar's original capture was done on his terms and his jail was lavishly built and run by his cronies so he could run his empire in luxury and surrounded by his closest confidants.
The final part of the book tracks the epic manhunt for Escobar by the Columbian military with strong clandestine and technological support from the US that culminated in the epic showdown and hail of gunfire that brought down the terrorist that traumatized Columbian society through the most pernicious, traumatic and violent means.
The story in Killing Pablo is straightforward: The rise of Pablo Escobar, the efforts of the Colombian government to capture him, the ever increasing interest of the United States, beginning with President Ronald Reagan, in Escobar as a part of the war on drugs, and the use of technology that kept Escobar on the run and eventually led to his being found and killed by a special Colombian police force. The story of the rise and fall of a criminal cartel.
Escobar began building his cocaine empire in the early 1970s and was fabulously wealthy by the late 70s. He was listed several times as one of the richest men in the world with homes and property scattered across the globe. At its height, the Medellin cart was exporting cocaine into the US in stripped down 727s, feeding the cocaine craze of the 1980s. Escobar did not create his wealth by being nice. While charismatic, humorous, and often stoned man was remembered as quiet by many that encountered him (leading to the frequent inability to match the man to his crimes), Escobar and his cohorts were brutal. If bribery did not work, kidnappings and murder were easy choices. The apartments of police officers were bombed, the families of journalists were kidnapped and killed, their bodies messages. Over and over again, Bowden tells the story of men and women assigned to track down or deal with Escobar who are murdered--men and women supposedly assigned to the task in great secret. Escobar's reach, particularly in Medellin was vast. Later, as the hunt narrows in on Escobar, the police task force created to hunt down Escobar, Search Bloc, realizes that one of their officers guarding an entrance to its offices, overhears orders for raids, warns Escobar, who eludes the authority's grasp yet again.
The Colombian government is wracked by inefficiency, bureaucratic infighting, corruption, and fear. Escobar always seems to escape their clutches because the government simply cannot get its act together. However, what is surprising is that so many did pursue Escobar when he demonstrated time and again an ability to kill them or their family members with impunity. Bowden notes several times where a dozen police are killed in a day. Presidential candidates, judges, lawyers, and journalists perish over and over again. Yet, they trudged on, and Colombia has its heroes in the search for justice.
With Reagan's war on drugs and then the bombing of the Avianca Flight 203, conducted by Escobar in an attempt to kill a Colombian presidential candidate, were two turning points in this hunt. Reagan's focus allowed for the first active engagement of the US in Colombia by way of a top-secret Army signals surveillance group called, at the time, Centra Spike, along with CIA and DEA participants as well. Centra Spike's primary abilities rested on triangulating communications with ever increasing accuracy (a practice quite easy today...or just use the GPS chip in our smart phones--but a feat of skill and engineering in the 1980s). Centra Spike's role was strictly limited, however. Then the bombing of the Avianca flight allowed President George Bush to classify the hunt for Escobar as a national security issue. Delta Force arrives in Colombia shortly thereafter in a training role for Search Bloc, though rumors persist that Delta Force team members participated actively in raids and even fired the fatal shot on Escobar.
Yet, Escobar eludes them. Over and over again, he narrowly escapes. A paramilitary group called Los Pepes begins destroying Escobar's property and targeting his friends and family. Their goal, keep Escobar from disappearing forever. How much was organized by the US and Colombian governments? Officially, nothing. However, Bowden is an expert at charting the appearance of Los Pepes, which implies the US knew more than it has let on, even if less than the rumors suggest. Regardless, Los Pepes was an extra-legal effort that succeeded. And then...a Colombian officer refining their own signals intelligence in an effort to prove they are just as capable as the Americans, stumbles upon Escobar, who perishes in a gun battle with police. Or did he? He died. That much is known. But...well, read this excellent, immersing book to find out.