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Alleged drug lord Pablo Escobar surrenders

MEDELLIN, Colombia -- Reputed drug lord Pablo Escobar, whose cartel is blamed for at least 1,000 assassinations and hundreds of terroristic attacks, surrendered Wednesday to authorities in Medellin, President Cesar Gaviria said.

Escobar and three top lieutenants of 'The Extraditables,' the military arm of the Medellin drug cartel, surrendered shortly after the constitutional assembly voted to prohibit extradition of drug traffickers.

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'The government and the people have paid the highest price in this struggle against cocaine trafficking. We have spent much of our energies in this action,' Gaviria said at a news conference.

Police say Escobar and other cartel leaders will be judged in connection with drug trafficking charges, the assassinations of almost 1,000 people during eight years, and hundreds of terrorist attacks.

Escobar, 41, surrendered to Catholic priest Rafael Garcia and a group of judicial officials led by Martha Hurtado, said a government spokesman in Medellin, 150 miles northwest of Bogota.

'We embraced. I offered him my friendship, and I will visit him again. I told him to call me if he needs my help. I congratulated him for his confidence in Colombia,' said Garcia, 84.

'He was at a far away place. In the middle of the jungle, in a rocky place and we picked him up in a helicopter. He jumped on and from there we went to the jail in Envigado,' Garcia said.

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Escobar boarded the helicopter and said, 'Father, I owe this surrender to you,' the priest said.

The alleged chief of the world's largest drug cartel will be tried in Colombia and is to receive a reduced sentence without possibilities of extradition, in accordance with a constitutional measure that takes effect July 5.

'This is a firm step toward the consolidation of peace,' Justice Minister Jaime Giraldo told journalists shortly after confirming the surrender of Escobar, who arrived in a helicopter at 5:15 p.m. at the prison in Envigado, 6 miles south of Medellin.

Special justice agents accompanied Escobar to the prison.

He arrived shortly after the surrender of his friend John Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, known as 'Popeye', considered the third most powerful leader of 'The Extraditables,' an arm of the Medellin cartel.

Velasquez Vasquez, 28, is considered one of Escobar's confidants and surrendered to a judge in Medellin, sources said.

The suspected gunman, who is a member of Escobar's personal security force, surrendered to a judge in a Medellin church and was immediately sent to the Envigado prison that was recently constructed to incarcerate other drug traffickers.

In Washington, White House spokesman Sean Walsh said the administration wants Escobar brought to justice: 'Obviously, we would like to see him brought to justice in the United States, but if he can be brought to justice and receive appropriate punishment in Colombia, we welcome it.'

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Through his cocaine empire, Escobar earned the reputation of being one of the wealthiest and deadliest criminals of the 20th century.

In 1987, Forbes and Fortune magazines ranked him as one of the world's richest men, with a fortune of at least $3 billion.

He and his fellow cocaine traffickers stuffed their wallets with the bounty from the rising popularity of cocaine in the 1970s and '80s, becoming so wealthy and powerful that they were able to thwart the combined efforts of the Colombian and U.S. governments to stop them.

They dismantled the Colombian justice system, killed their enemies at random and helped throw the nation into a crippling political crisis. Escobar was linked to the assassinations of dozens of judges, law enforcement officials and journalists.

In June 1986, secret police arrested Escobar and four others on charges of transporting 86 pounds of cocaine. In the following years, the case passed through the hands of nine judges, none of whom wanted to deal with it. The two policemen who made the arrest were killed.

With his wealth apparently came the urge to win acceptance in Colombian society and to extend his influence. In 1982, Escobar was elected to Congress as an alternative to Deputy Jairo Ortega and he launched a campaign to cultivate a public image as a legitimate businessman.

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But in the midst of a national debate over the use of 'hot money' in political campaigns, Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla questioned the source of Escobar's wealth and linked him to bribes and cocaine trafficking. El Espectador printed stories on his 1976 arrest for cocaine and described how the case had vanished in the court system.

Bonilla was assassinated, as was the owner of the newspaper and the judge who indicted Escobar for the Bonilla slaying.

Since Bonilla was killed, Escobar has lived a life in the shadows, not appearing in public.

While giving up his hope of being a 'Robin Hood' and an above-board force in Colombian politics, Escobar continued to build his fortune and control a large part of the world cocaine trade.

Reputed drug lord Pablo Escobar surrendered Wednesday to authorities in Medellin, shortly after the constitutional assembly voted to prohibit extradition of drug traffickers, the government said.

Escobar, 41, surrendered to Catholic priest Rafael Garcia and a group of judicial officials led by Martha Hurtado, said a government spokesmen in Medellin, 150 miles northeast of Bogota.

'We embraced, I offered him my friendship and I will visit him again. I told him to call me if he needs my help. I congratulated him for his confidence in Colombia,' said Garcia, 84.

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'He was at a far away place. In the middle of the jungle, in a rocky place and we picked him up in a helicopter. He jumped on and from there we went to the jail in Envigado,' Garcia said.

Escobar boarded the helicopter and said, 'Father, I owe this surrender to you,' the priest said.NEWLN: more

The alleged chief of the world's largest drug cartel will be tried in Colombia and is to receive a reduced sentence without possibilities of extradition, in accordance with a constitutional measure that takes effect July 5.

'This is a firm step toward the consolidation of peace,' justice minister Jaime Giraldo told journalists shortly after confirming the surrender of Escobar, who arrived in a helicopter at 5:15 p.m. at the prison in Envigado, 6miles south of Medellin.

Special justice agents accompanied Escobar to the prison.

He arrived shortly after the surrender of his friend, John Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, known as 'Popeye', considered the third most powerful leader of 'The Extraditables,' an arm of the Medellin cartel.

Velasquez Vasquez, 28, is considered one of Escobar's confidants and surrendered to a judge in Medellin, sources said.

The suspected gunman, who is a member of Escobar's personal security force, surrendered to a judge in a Medellin church and was immediately sent to the Envigado prison that was recently constructed to incarcerate other drug traffickers.NEWLN: more

Advertisement

Through his cocaine empire, Escobar earned the reputation of being one of the wealthiest and deadliest criminals of the 20th century.

In 1987, Forbes and Fortune magazines ranked him as one of the world's richest men, with a fortune of at least $3 billion.

He and his fellow cocaine traffickers stuffed their wallets with the bounty from the rising popularity of cocaine in the 1970s and '80s, becoming so wealthy and powerful that they were able to thwart the combined efforts of the Colombian and U.S. governments to stop them.

They dismantled the Colombian justice system, killed their enemies at random and helped throw the nation into a crippling political crisis. Escobar was linked to the assassinations of dozens of judges, law enforcement officials and journalists.

In June 1986, secret police arrested Escobar and four others on charges of transporting 86 pounds of cocaine. In the following years, the case passed through the hands of nine judges, none of whom wanted to deal with it. The two policemen who made the arrest were killed.

With his wealth apparently came the urge to win acceptance in Colombian society and to extend his influence. In 1982, Escobar was elected to Congress as an alternative to Deputy Jairo Ortega and he launched a campaign to cultivate a public image as a legitimate businessman.

Advertisement

But in the midst of a national debate over the use of 'hot money' in political campaigns, Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla questioned the source of Escobar's wealth and linked him to bribes and cocaine trafficking. El Espectador printed stories on his 1976 arrest for cocaine and described how the case had vanished in the court system.

Bonilla was assassinated, as was the owner of the newspaper and the judge who indicted Escobar for the Bonilla slaying.

Since Bonilla was killed, Escobar has lived a life in the shadows, not appearing in public.

While giving up his hope of being a 'Robin Hood' and an above-board force in Colombian politics, Escobar continued to build his fortune and control a large part of the world cocaine trade.

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