The next day we arrived together to Medellín, with plenty more exploring to do.
Medellín, Pablo Escobar and the Drug Cartels
For our first morning we had a tour to visit some of the old locations previously used by Pablo Escobar and the Medellín cartel. It is no secret that the drug cartels were the cause of extreme violence in Colombia during the 1980s and early 1990s, with Escobar being a significant component of making Medellín the cocaine capital of the world. Medellín and Bogotá had some of the highest homicide rates on the plane. According to a statement by Colombia’s Defence Minister, in 1993 Bogotá had a rate of murders per 100,000 residents – now significantly reduced, to 15.8 in 2016. Colombia has just experienced it’s lowest murder rate since 1974 when the drugs wars first began.
The violence finally began to abate from 1993 onwards, following the death of Escobar (things have also continued to improve with the more recent peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC). Medellín is now a far safer place. Many Paisa’s (people of Medellín) today are sick of hearing Escobar’s name and are fed up of the city’s identity being tied to a murderous criminal. There is optimism in the air and people want to move on.
But I’m afraid given it’s such an extreme history (brought even further into the popular mainstream by the Netflix series Narcos – which Paisas are also very critical of), not least given how one man apparently managed to wrap (bribe/blackmail) an entire country’s government round his little finger, that curiosity got the better of us. So we went to see a few of the remaining sites in the city that marked the rise and fall of the Medellín cartel: