Marquez and Colombian Terrorism by Ziel

Marquez depicts the unbelievable story of kidnapped characters orchestrated by Pablo Escobar, head of the Medellin Drug Cartel, in a heroic and journalistic style, which is powerful and disturbing. The terrorized survivors are prominent residents of Bagota, Columbia held hostage during 1990 and 1991. The hostages face terror in the interior of the Columbian government, the slums of Bagota and inside the confines of their drug captors’ harborage. The abductions of ten individuals by drug traffickers hoping to prevent their extradition to the United States is intense and dramatic as the narrative shifts on all levels. Maruja’s husband Alberto Villamizar, tries to regain her from her captors over a six-month period, which is compounded by his fear of her death. Maruja and Alberto are the central axis of Marquez’s fiction book “New of a Kidnapping”. He combines and the psychological impact of the people involved using their testimony in a journalistic style. He includes the Columbian governments’ response under President Cesar Gavirias’ direction in dealing with the illegal drug trade.

The author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was born in Aracataca, Columbia in 1928. He worked for a Columbian newspaper El Espectador as a foreign correspondent. Marquez received a Nobel Prize in Literature 1982 and is a known left wing political activist with strong political ties. So much so that “In 1981, Columbia’s Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez was stripped of his U.S. entry bias because he was a close friend of Fidel Castro, while Pablo Escobar traveled freely and frequently to the United States.”(Duzan Pg, 23). Although Marquez is better known as a novelist, in 1983 Marquez started a Colombian Newspaper, El Otro (The Other) in which he expressed his journalistic accounts.

News of a Kidnapping was written in a three-year period following the abduction of Maruja Pachon that reads like fiction, but it is all news, reported as a journalist would report it. “Throughout the book I use not one single fact that is not truthful and documented, and the language that I use has not one single metaphor so as to keep the austerity of language in journalism (Pombo 457).”(Pelayo, Pg.13) The history of the government is the basis in which the Medellin Drug Cartel was enabled to become the most powerful drug cartel in Columbian history. Illustrated by Marquez is the political intricacies and hard to understand deep involvement of drug dealers in the daily lives of people within the Columbian culture.

Pablo Escobar came to Congress in 1982 as an alternate member of the House of Representatives from Antioquia State in Medellin. As a stand-in for Jairo Ortega this membership gave him the status of congressman with congressional immunity – exempt from being charged with crimes. (Duzan pg. 19) Escobar entered politics and formed an alliance with Carlos Lehder who founded his own party a mixture of leftists populism and rightist, pro-nazi rhetoric which was called the National Latin Movement. Admitted to being a drug dealer in an interview on Caracol Radio Network also heard in the United States. Crimes of which he mentioned took place outside of Columbia, therefore, could not be prosecuted for his crimes and he had been legitimized of his wealth due to a nationwide amnesty on tax evaders. El Tiempo, the country’s largest newspaper lashed out at the broadcast and the government began to investigate further into his activities.

The visibility through newspapers of the drug bosses became a national political strategy. As they were interviewed they admitted the business that they were in as if they were Hollywood Stars. (Duzan, Pg. 22) News coverage of the extradition treaty approved was briefly mentioned. Carlos Lehder was extradited and tried in 1987 in Jacksonville Florida sentenced in 1988 to life in prison on a drug and conspiracy conviction. “Journalists aren't the only targets in Colombia's violence. But the rising threat against journalists has put in peril the right of Colombians to be informed about a civil war rocking their nation. Frightened reporters often soft-pedal news of the ongoing war. In cities, columnists for big newspapers compare the climate of fear to the killing sprees in the late 1980's under Medellin cartel boss Pablo Escobar.” (Johnson). Interviews revealing an unfavorable light on drug trafficking resulted in serious ramifications to the reporter including kidnapping, blowing up their house or murder.

The first to disclose Escobar’s true profession was Luis Carlos Galan. A young journalist who in 1979 founded the New Liberalism party in an effort to revitalize and modernize the current corrupt liberal party. (Marquez pg. 15) Galan was opposed to drug trafficking and supported extradition of Columbian nationals. Maruja Pachon was the sister of Gloria Pachon the widow of Luis Carlos Galan. Mauruja worked on the campaign with Luis Carlos Galan, who began to scrutinize Escobar and the Medellin splinter group with a plan to clean out the bureaucracy. Galan publicly stated in Medellin that he did not “support persons whose fortunes were of questionable origin.” (Duzan Pg.27) Unknowingly Galan signed his own death warrant. This action marked the beginning of the most violent chapters in Columbian history.

An interview with Escobar “The Robin Hood of Medellin” highlighted his immense fortune and depicted a businessman of humble origins. There was talk of his connection with drug dealing, however there was no proof. He clearly had influences in high places within the regions of elite decision-makers. The people of the country unknowingly viewed him as a wealthy man who improved living conditions by giving handouts to the poor. Escobar had spread large sums of money around the slum of Medellin, which stopped in 1983 when Escobar’s drug activities caused him to be expelled from Congress. During the time period of 1982 through 1984, Escobar was forced to go underground and was aided by priests within the Catholic Church.

The Columbian custom officials suspected Escobar of being a drug dealer and the findings on Escobar’s’ life since 1975 surfaced several arrests and links to a string of drug related murders. However, charges against him were always dropped. Clearly, he would murder his way to the top. To facilitate new recruits into the business thereby gaining control, Escobar would begin with a rumor of a cocaine shipment ready to be shipped out and a participant could invest money. If the shipment was successful, profits were shared. If it were lost, Escobar would reimburse the initial investment. Those members of the upper class without moral consideration viewed the function as a stock market.

The death squads are the first link to the cartels. There is an urban and rural connection in violence. Cartels usually kill leftists. The paramilitaries come from both the wealthy and the drug lords. “The Extraditable” who were the armed unit of the drug dealers were willing to take any steps deemed necessary against those who would counsel an international solution such as extradition to face U.S. justice. (Duzan Pg. 35) They took action and declared war on the oligarchy by blowing up banks, persecuting and kidnapping of land owners.

In 1987, people began to recognize the malitia and cartel alliances. The guerilla organizations sold protection to the cocaine entrepreneurs (Thoumi pg. 175). In 1990, Medellin reached the height of chaos and violence. Approximately fifteen people killed a day, 100,000 unemployed and 140,000 children did not have access to education. Thus, people especially children were unknowingly susceptible to the control of local drug dealers and corrupt government officials. Further these master minded acts of terror and counter-terrorism by abduction, torture, rape, murder are the cold invariant and disdainful purpose to dominate, shame, and capaciously dispossess. Marquez communicates through the eyes of the kidnapped victims, the contagion of moral corruption and the sum of these elements sparking awareness of what terror looks like and is equivalent to Columbia.

The Columbian government offered reduced sentences for voluntary surrendering of drug dealers. On June 20th, 1991, with the help of Father Rafael Garcia Herreros, Pablo Escobars' negotiated surrender included that Escobar would stand trial for the assassination of Luis Carlos Galan. Escobar at his meeting with Father Herreros, sent by Villamizar Maruja’s husband, expressed his willingness to release Maruja Pachon once the surrender terms have been arraigned. “Villamizar received a message form Escobar in which he said he would not release Maruja Pachon… that day but the next day, …May 20 at seven in the evening.” After 193 days in captivity Maruja was released by her kidnappers.

On July 5 1991, a new constitution was approved which banned extradition. The existing congress was closed until a new body could be elected and formed. (Thoumi Pg. 228) On July 22, 1992 Pablo Escobar fled from jail, which was considered a breech of his agreement under which he surrendered. On December 2, 1993 the new government created a special police task force to re-capture Escobar and determined his whereabouts by tracing a phone call (Marquez, Pg. 289). He was shot to death in a Medellin suburb by an eight-man team.

Columbia finally managed to dismantle the most vicious drug cartel in the world who had been responsible for the death of 60,000 people within five years including 1,000 policemen, 60 judges, 70 journalists, 1,500 leftists union and political leaders, an attorney general, two cabinet ministers, four presidential candidates, a governor, and several police chiefs. Escobar’s tremendous fortune of more than three billion dollars had been drained by the cost of the war spent on disbanding the cartel.

On September 2, 1997 in Medellin, the Administrative Department of Security, Director-General Luis Enrique Montenegro Rinco, described the seizure of many of deceased Pablo Escobar Gaviria's assets as a new blow to the infrastructure of the Medellin drug cartels. “We started to seize some of the assets belonging to the deceased drug trafficker Pablo Escobar. The heirs will not receive those assets, which will go to the state. Together with apartments, garages, the buildings and properties located not only in Medellin but also in Envigado. The government will continue seizing the assets belonging to kidnappers and guerrillas. It is of no use to the country to hold the drug lords in jails if they continue to have the money and the power to continue to traffic drugs. These actions discourage them psychologically and economically.” (Montenegro Rinco).

What we can learn from reading fiction is the immense impact of the drug epidemic that effects reach far beyond Columbia. National and international politicians fighting the drug war must recognize that the problem lies not only in drug trafficking but also in drug consumption. As the illegal drug trade continues to grow, it fuels narco-terrorism; undermines legitimate government institutions and leads to increasing violence. The affects reach the core of the industrial world, poor producing nations, international banking practices and multinational commerce. We can see by the history of alcohol prohibition, which created gangsters while the gangsters spread the contagious disease of moral corruption. The commodity of drugs lies within the same category.

In 2000, armed opposition groups held mass kidnappings of civilian’s and community leaders for ransom which were politically motivated. Violence and torture often involving mutilation remains widespread in urban areas of Columbia. It is suspected that several billion dollars flow to Columbia from the drug trade alone. This drug money makes it possible to gain unprecedented economic, political, and social power and influence as Escobar did in the late 1970’s. Gabriel Garcia Marquez said, “We will rot alive, in a war that cannot be won.”

Works Cited

Duzan, Maria Jimena Death Beat: A Columbian Journalist’s Life inside the Cocaine
Trans. Peter Eisner. New York: Harper Collins, 1994.

Johnson, Tim “Dangerous Work: Journalism’s Plight in Columbia 43 Have Been Slain in
the Past Decade
” Global NewsBank: Miami Herald .17th October, 1999

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia News of a Kidnapping. Trans. Edith Grossman. New
York: Penguin Books, 1998

Monternegro Rinco, General Luis Enrique “Security official comments on seizure of
Pablo Escobar's assets.”
Global NewsBank. BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 2nd
September 1997.

Pelayo, Ruben Gabriel Garcia Marquez A Critical Companion. Connecticut: Greenwood
Press, 2001

Thoumi, Francisco E. Political Economy and Illegal Drugs in Columbia/Francisco E.
Studies of the impact of the illegal drug trade. 2 vols. Colorado: L. Renner, 1995.

U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Government Reform. Subcommittee on
Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources. Getting U.S. Aid to Columbia. October 12, 2000.
Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001 (Y4.G74/7:C 71/3)