I just finished reading Germán Castro Caycedo’s excellent book about drug lord Pablo Escobar called “Operación Pablo Escobar.”
Caycedo, a respected veteran journalist in Colombia, said he interviewed the notorious head of the Medellin Cartel almost a dozens times as he was researching a book about the rise of drug dons. When Escobar was hunted down and killed in 1993, it also killed the book project.
But amid renewed interest in all things Escobar, Castro released the book this month.
I’m not an Escobar scholar - I read Mark Bowden’s impressive “Killing Pablo,” but that’s about as far as I’ve gotten - but I think there are some new things in Castro’s account.
*While it’s well known that Escobar had ties to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, in this book Escobar claims the connection goes back to the Somoza regime in the 1970s. In his telling, the Colombia-Nicaragua-US drug route was established when a plane belonging to drug kingpin Jaime Cardona crashed on a Somoza estate. Escobar said the U.S.-backed dictator made the pilot a deal he couldn’t refuse: freedom in exchange for having a cut of all future drug runs through Nicaragua.
*Escobar also sheds some light on the Barry Seal episode. You may recall that Seal, a drug runner for the cartel and a CIA informant, used a concealed camera to show Escobar and Jorge Ochoa presumably loading kilos of cocaine into a C-123 transport plane in Nicaragua. Seal was reportedly gunned down in 1986 in Baton Rouge by the Medellin cartel, but Escobar said he had nothing to do with the murder.
He also said he never loaded cocaine in Nicaragua, as the pictures suggest, but that he was loading cash. He said the sting and the cocaine story was part of a complicated coverup to hide the fact that U.S. Col. Oliver North was financing Nicaragua’s Contra war with cocaine delivery contracts. (Seal and others were charging the cartel $5,000 per kilo, and the cocaine was landing on CIA-controlled fields in Texas and Louisiana.)
Many of these allegations may have been made in one way or another, and there's no paticular reason to put much faith in anything Escobar said, but it was interesting to "hear" them from the mouth of the dead don.