Cashing In on Pablo Escobar's Death

It was 23 years ago today that Pablo Escobar was assassinated on a rooftop in Medellin, Colombia.

Ex-DEA agents Steve Murphy and Javier Pena, who served as consultants to the series Narcos, are still cashing in, now embarking on a world tour. Next stop: Australia.

Mr Pena and fellow former agent Steve Murphy are coming to Australia for a series of live shows next year, called "Capturing Pablo: An Evening with Javier Pena and Steve Murphy." They'll be speaking at Hamer Hall on Thursday, July 13.

The Australian media has the false impression they were involved in the killing of Escobar, which is simply not true. [More...]

How many facts can one news article get wrong? Many. Starting with the headline "Drug kingpin hunter Javier Pena reveals what it was like taking down Pablo Escobar" and the photo caption, "Former Drug Enforcement Agent Javier Pena took down Pablo Escobar." And then in the first few paragraphs:

The manhunt was led my [sic] former US Drug Enforcement Agent Javier Pena, who helped kill the kingpin in 1993.

Javier Pena was not even in Colombia the day Pablo Escobar was killed. He was on assignment in Miami. And his partner, Steve Murphy, didn't arrive at the rooftop until after Escobar was killed. No Americans accompanied the Colombian police on the raid. The only people on that rooftp when Escobar was shot were members of the Colombian National Police who were part of the Search Bloc, the Colombian task force created in 1992 to find and kill Escobar called the Bloque de Busqueda and Escobar. Murphy and Pena have said so. Here's the transcript of Javier Pena and partner Steve Murphy's account, given at a tour of the DEA Museum:

And, as a matter of fact, on that day when Escobar was killed, they had forced… I shouldn’t use the word “forced” but Javier had to go to Miami to debrief a potential informant with information where Escobar could have been in Haiti. And, I mean, this guy has enough experience to know what’s good information, what’s not good information.

And we didn’t wanna do it but you couldn’t pass up on an opportunity to collect an actionable lead. So when he took off to Miami, of course I’m up in Medine and it was just by faith that I happened to be there the day when the major called in and… I was with Colonel Martinez there when the major called in and said, “Vive Colombia. Pablo’s dead”.

p. Col. Martinez and Murphy then drove to the scene, where Murphy took photos of the Colombian police standing over Escobar's body, and they reciprocated taking a photo of him -- but again, by his own admission, he wasn't there when Escobar got shot.

If the Colombian National Police didn't kill Escobar, the only other possibilities are suicide, as his son claims, or as Los Pepes member and one time paramilitary leader Diego Murillo (Don Berna) claims in his book, his brother fired the shot from the street.

The Delta Force didn't kill Escobar, according to Murphy. He says in the Museum tour they were in the room with him at Search Bloc headquarters when they got the phone call Escobar was dead.

Obviously, the Australian media is very confused, and part of it seems to stem from the radio interview Pena gave there. The rest seems to come from Narco's which was very fictionalized to make for better TV. The show hired Pena and Murphy as consultants and then told the story through the lens of the drug cops, not the narcos. Narcs are not the same as Narcos.

Pena and Murphy are also taking their show to Copenhagen. They owe it to the public to be very clear that they neither they nor the DEA nor any U.S. agent fired the shots that killed Pablo Esobar.

There will be likely be many more false scenarios during Narcos 3, which will focus on the take-down of the Cali Cartel -- Pena's character will again be featured. (Hopefully the annoying Murphy character will be gone. The guy who plays Pena is at least a good actor.)

For a more accurate portrayal of the Cali Cartel, you'd do much better watching En El Boco del Lobo on Netflix and Hulu or reading the book on which it's based, At the Devil's table, or The Bullet or the Bribe.

For more on Pablo Escobar, stay tuned for his chief hitman Popeye's new series, Sobriendo Escobar (Surviving Escobar) to air on Netflix. It's based on his book by the same name, which he wrote in prison. Popeye was released from prison in 2014 after serving 23 years, and has since been constantly in the media giving interviews and recording his own You Tube videos. He has an opinion on everything.

Escobar's son has a new book called Pablo Escobar: Red-Handed. In addition to more information on Escobar and his crimes, his son alleges the U.S. bought cocaine from Escobar to fund its anti-communist war in Central America.

In his second book, Pablo Escobar, In Fraganti translated as Red Handed, Mr Marroquin said there was a "network of corruption" that stretched from Colombia to the US.

He highlighted how 800 kilos of cocaine were flown between Medellin and Miami International Airport each week - allegedly in collusion with US drug officials.

"It is clear that at some point the US decided to buy cocaine from Pablo Escobar and use their services to fund the anti-communist struggle in Central America.”

He isn't the only son of a Narco to write books. There's also the book by Cali Cartel son (who actually ran the financial side of the cartel after the arrest of his father and uncle) which I've written about before.

If you really want to learn about the life of any of history's most notorious drug traffickers, don't rely on shows like Narcos, which are fictionalized versions as told to producers by DEA agents on the show's payroll.

Instead, check out the numerous books and shows based on the traffickers' accounts and accounts of those who betrayed them. For the Government version, check the unclassified cables on Wikileaks and the transcripts of witnesses who sang for their supper and testified against the cartel leaders. The truth is no doubt somewhere in between.

As to Pablo Escobar, the truth isn't Narcos. Pablo Escobar, Patron de Mal, written by children of two of his prominent victims, is closer to reality.

Even if you don't care about the truth, there is much better fictionalized TV around than Narcos. El Capo (three seasons) is pure fiction, like La Reina del Sur, and much better. El Senor de los Cielos started out based on the life of a real cartel leader, but in subsequent seasons went to straight fiction. It's way better than Narcos though.

Pretty close to real life and excellent are El Cartel and its sequel, El Cartel de los Sapos (Cartel of the Snitches). Also good is En La Boca del Lobo. Although it's the story of one of two major informants who took down the Cali Cartel, and I usually don't like informant tales, it pretty much aligns with records from numerous real court cases. Is it the truth or the Government's version of the truth? Who knows. But it's consistent. And it doesn't glorify the two DEA agents who handled him, although they come off much better than the agents in Narcos. (There will be characters portraying these two agents in Narcos 3, it remains to be seen how much their roles are doctored.)

I'll also watch Popeye's series, although I may not make it through the whole thing since it focuses on his life in prison and I don't like prison life shows. I've been reading his interviews since before his release from prison in 2014, and he is very articulate, smart and politically astute. Here's a recent interview with him in Uruguay (use Google translate.)

Popeye killed hundreds and was responsible for the death of thousands. He wants redemption. He says, "I will always be a mobster. But now I'm a good mobster, I'm a political activist."

And beginning Monday, Telemundo will begin airing El Chema, a spin-off starring one of Senor de los Cielos' best characters, Chema Venegas. It's very very loosely based on El Chapo -- in other words, it steals the tunnel escape material from real life, but the rest seems to be fiction. Nor does the show claim that Chema is El Chapo. I've already seen the first episode On Demand (with subtitles, which the online versions don't do well), and will be watching the entire series. There will be appearances by many of the prominent characters in Senor de los Cielos.

So it's been 23 years since Pablo Escobar was killed and there are more drugs coming into the U.S. than ever. Just this week, an associate of the Beltran Leyva cartel was sentenced to 27 years in Chicago on a blind plea of guilty. No guns, no violence, just drugs (although the Government argued it was reasonably forseeable to him that someone in the drug cartel might use a gun and got an sentence bump accordingly.) A few months ago, the 7th Circuit upheld the 22 year sentence of El Chapo associate Alfredo Vazquez-Hernandez, also on a blind plea of guilty. Alfredo Beltran-Leyva pleaded guilty last February on a blind plea and is likely to be sentenced to life in a few months.

The War on Drugs is a failure. So is television that tells the story of traffickers through the lens of the DEA. They can tell their own story, and their stories make for far more compelling television.

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  • Display: Sort:
    was this just a continuation of Iran-Contra, (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Sat Dec 03, 2016 at 04:39:50 PM EST
    or a whole new gig?