Escobar, By Roberto Escobar

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The Independent Culture

At the height of his success, the Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar was, according to Forbes magazine's Rich List, the seventh richest man in the world.

Cash from his cocaine exports to the US came in so fast that his organisation spent $2,500 on rubber bands every month, just to hold the notes together. Escobar was a gangster responsible for thousands of deaths, but also provided the poor of Colombia with schools, health care and soccer stadiums.

When in prison (a purpose-built prison bought and designed by him), he dined on caviar, played football against invited professional teams, and negotiated with governments. He was shot by government forces in 1993, at the age of 44.

His brother's version of events (as told to David Fisher) is undoubtedly partial and the sanctimonious tone is sometimes hard to take. Nevertheless, Escobar led such an extraordinary life that the narrative is always absorbing. A better argument against the USA's lunatic "war on drugs" could hardly be found than this.