‘A dad like any other,’ son says of drug lord Escobar
Pablo Escobar may have been the world’s top drug lord and blamed for 15,000 murders, but to his son, he was “a dad like any other” who read stories and sang him to sleep.
“When I had the chance to talk with my dad about his behavior… I felt between a rock and a hard place because I wasn’t about to turn him in… it was like living with two different people,” Juan Pablo Escobar said in an interview at Mexico’s Guadalajara Film Festival.
Escobar, 32, presented the documentary “Sins of my Father” about his life and the notorious legacy his father left.
In it, he atones for his father’s crimes and begs forgiveness to the sons of two politicians his father ordered killed in the 1980s.
Fearing for his safety, Juan Pablo Escobar changed his name to Sebastian Marroquin after his father was killed by police in the northern Colombian city of Medellin in late 1993. The following year, he fled to Argentina where he now lives with his wife, mother and sister.
Escobar said he rejected several proposal for documentaries before Argentine filmmaker Nicolas Entel came along with his project.
“One way or another, the other documentaries wanted to glorify gangsterism and take advantage of history to turn a profit,” he told AFP. “Nicolas’s project was different, but it took him six months to convince me.”
In “Sins of My Father,” Marroquin talks about his childhood spent with the “Cocaine Czar,” but also recounts meeting the sons of slain politicians Rodrigo Lara Bonilla and Luis Carlos Galan.
“Both meetings were very intense. I couldn’t believe they had agreed to see me,” Escobar said.
“The fact is both sides came away with a feeling of relief, of liberation. We realized that forgiveness is the only way of achieving peace in Colombia, which doesn’t imply giving up on justice.”
Despite his notorious exploits as the head of the Medellin drug cartel and his vast fortune — he was considered one of the richest men in the world during the 1990s — the elder Escobar was an ordinary family man at home, “a dad like any other,” according to his son.
The younger Escobar said his father imparted life values that put him on the right path.
Upon learning of his father’s death, he publicly threatened his killers but retracted his words 10 minutes later.
“Those 10 minutes for me were full of reflection — 10 very intense minutes that made clear to me what would happen if I followed down the path of violence,” said Escobar, an architect and self-proclaimed “pacifist.”
“The outlook was so terrible that, right there, I told myself history wouldn’t be repeated.”
He acknowledged that being a major drug kingpin’s son came with an extra dose of responsibility.
“Every word I utter carries extra weight because of who I am. It’s something I’ve had to learn to live with,” he said.
Escobar is also quick to condemn the sources of drug trafficking, his late father’s trade.
“While poverty persists in this world, there will be drug trafficking. As long as it remains illegal and governments neglect the downtrodden, this business will thrive.
“The only way to wipe it out is through education. I don’t know how things would have turned out if my father had had the chance of going to university and becoming a professional.”
The Guadalajara Film Festival is one of the most important events of its kind in Latin America. Some 230 films and documentaries were shown March 12-19.