The Accountant's Story_ Inside the Viole by Roberto Escobar & David Fisher

In our world of instant communications it has become relatively simple to become a legend. To be anointed a person has to perform a feat mammoth enough to earn the covers of all the celebrity magazines the same week and dominate twenty-four-hour coverage on cable news for at least several news cycles. One of these nouveau legends can emerge instantly from any field: politics, entertainment, sports, crime, and the bizarre. But in our eat-’em-up media yesterday’s legends rapidly become tomorrow’s Dancing with the Stars contestants.

But Pablo Escobar became a legend the old-fashioned way: He shot his way to the top of the charts. True legends, like that of Pablo Escobar, grow slowly through time and must be nurtured. The stories told about them have to continue to grow in scope and size until reality is simply too small to contain them. They have to burst beyond the borders of time and place and become famous enough to outlive the contemporary journalism of their life. The world has to come to know them on a first-name basis.

Pablo Escobar has joined the list of celebrity criminals, finding his place on the dark side of history with Blackbeard, Jesse James, and Al Capone. Movies about his life will be made, more in an effort to exploit him than explain him. Pablo Escobar gained infamy as the most successful, most ruthless, and certainly the best known drug trafficker in history, a man who was beloved by the poorest people of Colombia while being despised by the leaders of nations. He has become known as the richest outlaw in history, a man who built neighborhoods while destroying lives, a multibillionaire who was able to evade the armies searching years for him. When I began working on this project I knew very little about Pablo Escobar other than the broad facts that emerged above the clatter: He had become synonymous with Colombian cocaine, which had flooded the United States, and as a result he was listed as one of Forbes magazine’s ten richest men in the world.

Before beginning my long series of interviews with Pablo’s surviving brother, Roberto, I did considerable background research, most of which confirmed what I knew and filled in substantial details. The facts of Pablo Escobar’s life are the bricks of legend: Born in 1949 during a period of tremendous violence that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Colombians, he grew up in a lower-middle-class working family. By the early 1970s he had become involved in his first serious crimes, and by the late 1970s he had entered the world of drug trafficking. His genius for organizing enabled him to bring together other traffickers to form what became the Medellín cartel. This came at the perfect time, when affluent Americans fell in love with cocaine. It was Pablo Escobar’s cartel that supplied America’s habit, and even the countless thousands of tons of coke that were successfully smuggled into America weren’t enough to satisfy the demand. Pablo revolutionized the drug trade by creating new methods to smuggle massive amounts of drugs into America and then Europe. The business made Pablo and his partners billionaires. Pablo used many millions of his dollars to aid the poorest people of Colombia, building homes, buying food and medicine, paying school tuition, and in so many different ways becoming their hero.

Meanwhile, his greatest fear, the greatest fear of all the traffickers, was that Colombia would enforce its extradition treaty with the United States and they would end up in an American prison.

In 1982 Pablo entered politics and was elected as an alternate to Congress; perhaps to serve the lower classes of his country as he claimed or perhaps to insulate himself from extradition as an elected official. Although Pablo claimed his money had been earned in real estate, in 1983 Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla accused him of being a drug dealer; for the first time the rumors had become public. When Lara Bonilla was killed in April 1984, Pablo was blamed and his political career ended.

For the first time the extraordinary violence for which the Medellín cartel would become known became part of Colombia’s daily life; in 1985 almost 1,700 people were murdered in Medellín, a figure that would continue to grow. Pablo and the leaders of the cartel were forced into hiding for the next few years, at times spending months in the jungles, often escaping just minutes ahead of government forces. In November of 1985 rebels launched a massive attack on the