Wednesday, September 12, 2012

BOOK REVIEW - Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden

Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden
News of a Kidnapping by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

            Terrorism is not confined to the Middle East and Central Asia.  These two books confirm that one of the most heinous criminals of our time lived in our hemisphere.  The long term impact of this man’s network rivals the devastation of Al-Queda and Osama Bin Laden , although in more insidious and less obvious ways.  These books present two views of the life and career of Pablo Escobar, Colombian smuggler, murderer, extortionist and drug cartel leader.
            Killing Pablo by Blackhawk Down author Mark Bowden is a thoroughly researched, journalistic view of the life and career of Pablo Escobar.  The first part is a biography chronicling Pablo’s humble beginnings as an adolescent car thief and minor hoodlum through his ruthless rise to Columbia’s most powerful drug lord.  The author explains how Pablo used bribes, extortion, intimidation and murder to control his government and build an illicit financial empire estimated in the billions of dollars.  The majority of the book examines the role of the United States military and intelligence agencies in finding Escobar and eventually killing him.  The author asks important questions regarding the United States’ obligations in foreign government’s problems that are especially appropriate in light of the events since 9/11/01.
             News of a Kidnapping is by Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  Love in the Time of Cholera and The General in His Labyrinth are his most famous novels.  Marquez tells the story of Escobar’s reign of terror from a different perspective.  He relates the personal experiences of ten Colombian men and women, nine of whom were journalists, who were kidnapped by Escobar’s bullies and held for ransom and for extortion purposes for months.  Parts of this read like a Keystone Kops movie script or Woody Allen’s “Bananas” since the kidnappers are such inept and drunken stooges.  The harsh reality of the victims’ personal tragedy, however, illuminates just how ruthless and heartless this man Pablo Escobar was.
              Each of these books gives valuable insight into the tremendous multifaceted problem of the international drug trade.  The question of how far can one government go to protect its own citizens by controlling or intervening into another country’s internal problems is intriguing.  The most frightening and disturbing aspect of these two books is the revelation of just how much “evil lurks in the hearts of men.”

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