Pablo Escobar: A Hero or a Villain?

December 14, 2011

Political Theory


As many of you already know, Pablo Escobar was an infamous drug lord from Colombia who came to fame and power through cocaine trafficking.  Leader of the Medellin cartel, Escobar controlled around 80 percent of the cocaine trade in the world, and countless number of police officers, goverment officials, and thousands of others that got in his way lost their lives.  United States considers him a criminal harmful to the society.  However, even nowdays in Colombia, especially in his hometown of Medellin, Escobar is regarded as a hero.

Escobar was born in 1949 into a poor household.  He did not complete his education, and went into the business of crime very young.  Later on, when he learned that the demand of cocaine was skyrocketing in United States, he jumped on this opportunity and began manufacturing and smuggling the drug.  He operated under a policy called “plato o plomo” which literally signified take the money or take the bullet.  He bribed judes, policemen, juries, and innumberable government officials with money to help him out, and he took the lives of the ones that refused to cooperate with or go against him.  In our society, Escobar is described as a cruel and ruthless human being and is not considered a model citizen that deserves respect.

However, there is another side of Pablo Escobar that we often fail to hear about.  He was always willing to give back to the people, and he did a lot more to better the lives of the poor and less privileged than the Colombian government ever has.  Coming from a background of poverty, he knew how tough life was for the poor and always shared his money and wealth with the community.  Escobar made sure everyone in his community was taken care of, and he was able to accomplish the task of providing work and shelter for the ones that were in need of jobs or residence.  Even to this day, Escobar is referred to as “The Godfather” or “Robin Hood” by his people because of the invaluabe contributions he has made for the society.  For example, he constructed numerous housing projects so that everyone at least had a place to live.  He is also responsible for establishing and funding soccer teams and leagues in Colombia and building countless number of churches, hospitals, and schools across the country and advocating education for the children.

There are two completely different sides to the story of Pablo Escobar.  Our government tells us that he was a ruthless, atrocious criminal that ruined and took the lives of countless number of innocent victims.  On the other hand, by some, especially the working class of his country, he is seen as a very respectable human being who made irreplaceable contributions and gave back freely to the community genuinely out of his good will to better the lives of the poor and less fortunate.  Also, Escobar came from nothing and made something out of his life, and although what he did was illegal, he used  a large portion of his proceeds towards good causes.  Now, Escobar is dead, and Colombia is worse than its ever been.  What do you guys think?  Should Escobar be named as a hero or a villain?

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8 Comments on “Pablo Escobar: A Hero or a Villain?”

  1. asgersh Says:

    I do not beliebe Pablo Escobar should be seen as a hero, but I think that if you are going to look at what the man did wrong you also have to see what good he did. Many criminal kingpins like Escobar are seen in the neighborhoods where they came from as heros. In reality they often did more to hurt their community then to help it. It is important to look at all aspects of a man when judging him though. When there is no chance of gaining an education or no chance to make something of yourself by normal means, many turn to crime. To evaluate someone like Escobar you need to not only look at the bad and good he has done, but also the circumstances he grew up in

  2. William Burton Says:

    it only makes sense that you would give back to certain groups when you are a criminal that may be hunted down at any time. I see that as him ‘buying friends’ and making sure that should he need a place a hide or lay low, it would be available. while some may see him giving money to the community as a ‘good’ thing, I see it as a criminal making sure he has another place to hide, nothing more.

  3. acicurel Says:

    Being a kingpin means that you need to maintain your position at the top. This means that naturally he has to appease the people surrounding him. For the most part we only recognize the negative side of Escobar, even if we know about the good he did. We do not live in the towns that he helped so do not know firsthand the impact he had on these peoples lives. We focus on the bad that he brought to our country, while the Colombians focus on how bad their lives would have been without his patronage. I do not think hero is the right word but I do recognize that he did what he could to improve his life and the life of those around him and can to some degree accept that.

  4. ryanjcarney Says:

    I agree with William that Escobar’s supposed charity is enough to consider him a saintly Robin Hood character. Gangs and crime lords maintain their power by creating connections with their neighborhoods and people. They oftentimes give to create business connections, alliances or to make sure that person or group in indebted to the gang. It also helps to be on the side of those around you when you’re breaking the law so it’s harder for the authorities to bring you down through infiltration or convincing others to rat out out.

    That said, history is never black and white and there are often many layers to these figures but I personally find Escobar’s supposed hero-status suspect.

  5. jonkeren Says:

    Pablo Escobar was a drug Kingpin with an enormous amount of influence. For a period of time he was completely untouchable. The masses feared him and he had the police in his pocket. Furthermore, he was one of the richest men in the world amounting nearly eight billion dollars. That being said, Escobar was certainly a villain. Anytime somebody tried to get in his way or disrupt his operations, he would have them killed. He had over 100 people killed in total which is an enormous number. Additionally his operations were completely illegal, and he didn’t deal drugs to better society he did it to make money. Therefore how could he have been a Hero. Like all drug lords though, his time came to an end and he was killed. It is unsure how he died, either he got shot or he committed suicide. It is still a mystery to this day.

  6. pelarkin Says:

    Looking at the life and deeds of Pablo Escobar, I think that a case could be made both for the fact that he was a saint, and he was a villain, depending on how you look at it. He is very much like Robin Hood in this case, in that he did numerous illegal acts, but he used all of his benefits to help the disadvantaged of his country, which was a good thing. So now, we are faced with the question: are good deeds just as good, if the means to get to them was bad? Or, in other words, as Machiavelli put it; do the ends justify the means?

    Pablo Escobar is still a controversial figure today in our media, due to the fact that he accomplished an incredible amount of evil deeds, which expanded beyond his drug manufacturing and smuggling. Among some of his other evil doings were forced corruption and bribery of government officials, who in turn turned a blind eye to his many illegal doings. Although it was mentioned that he helped to turn soccer into a popular sport in his home country, I think it has to be mentioned that he was most likely responsible for the murder of Andres Escobar, the Colombian defender who was murdered after his famous own goal which occurred during the 1994 FIFA World Cup, held right here in the United States.

    However, he does have an incredible track record of helping out the disadvantaged of his country, which goes to show that he cares where he came from, which is a good attribute to have. He gave thousands of people shelter, clothes, and meals at a time when these things were scarce. His good deeds cannot be undone, and thousands of people are still thankful to him today in Colombia.

    So, what should we think? Machiavelli certainly would have liked the end result, because in the end, he did accomplish some good, however, due to the fact that we listen to our own media here in the United States, I have the feeling that most of America does not like this man at all.

  7. danielpienkowski Says:

    This blog post reminded me a lot of the movie “Public Enemies,” where Johnny Depp plays the notorious American bank robber John Dillinger. Dillinger was seen as a sort of hero to the people, as, in the time of America’s great depression, he robbed banks and gave money back to the people. He had a great public image; at the time there was much animosity and distrust towards the banks (much as there has been in recent years here in the US after the financial crisis) and Dillinger was seen as someone who fought for the common man. Yet, at the same time, he was a criminal, just like Escobar. Not only have they both broken the law, they have committed crimes such as murder for their own gain, something that many of us would undoubtedly see as immoral. Escobar was no doubt a villain; I don’t think anyone would argue that his numerous murders are justified by the fact that he gave some of the money he stole back to the community. Although he did help out some people’s lives, the cost at which he went about it essentially prohibits him from being labeled a “hero,” and the ends here certainly doesn’t justify the means. Although on its face it may seem like a Machiavellian concept, I think everything has to be relative.

  8. joeyalessi Says:

    It is tough to make a decision on whether to call him a villain or a hero. We do not know what kind of a person Pablo Escobar was. He seems like he was a kind man but he had to maintain his position on top and that meant doing some terrible things, like killing people. I think what he did to help the people of Columbia in a sense out weigh the wrongs he committed. He grew up in the toughest of conditions and was able to make a better life for himself even though it was a very criminal one. I think the people of Columbia should be asked if they think Pablo Escobar was a hero or villain.

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