By Simon Strong
Published Jan 2010
Pablo Escobar, king of the Medellin cartel in Colombia, was one of the richest and most intriguing villains of all time. The son of a farmer, he began his career stealing tombstones and quickly evolved into a car thief, freelance gunman and kidnapper. By the mid-1970s he was trading cocaine, acquiring a fortune estimated at $5 billion. He became one of the world’s richest men. His forces of hitmen became small armies; he had a payroll of judges, politicians, general and presidents. But Escobar was also a wanted man – wanted as much by his former partners in crime as by the US and Colombian governments – and he was finally gunned down by police in December 1993.
In Whitewash, Simon Strong paints a complex picture of a man whose appalling ruthlessness was matched only by the stridence of his claims that he was working for the good of the population he bombed and terrorized. Using Escobar’s life as a lens through which to focus on the cocaine trade in Colombia and abroad, Simon Strong lays bare the corruption behind the façades of government and financial institutions in a country whose drug-fuelled economic growth in the 1980s defied the regional pattern and whose violence is such that it now boasts the highest murder rate in the world.