How Many Deaths Is Pablo Escobar Responsible For?

Medellín Cartel leader Pablo Escobar was one of the most infamous figures in recent history, becoming one of the richest people in the world due to his massive drug empire. During his reign, Escobar dominated cocaine exports to the United States, and his wealth bought him many expensive properties, a personal zoo, and even his own prison for when he was caught and sentenced in 1991. He made no small effort in fostering a positive public image for himself in his home country. 

Often seen signing autographs and posing for pictures, as well as funding hospitals and homeless shelters, his relationship with the public was not unlike that of other criminal leaders like Al Capone. He also had political ambitions and had enough money and public sway that he was even elected as the prospective replacement for a Colombian congressman in 1982 (via Noiser). However, Escobar's hero status among Colombians became split once it became clear just how much murder resulted from his rise to power (via BBC).

Escobar's empire killed thousands to sustain itself

Depending on the source, Pablo Escobar is believed to have been responsible for the deaths of 4,000 people and possibly more (via Britannica). Judges, journalists, politicians, and police were all fair game if they came anywhere close to threatening his cartel's business.  Most of these murders were carried out by individuals such as Jhon Jairo Velásquez. Until his capture in the 1990s, Velásquez personally killed around 300 of Escobar's enemies and arranged for the murders of another 3,000 (via Associated Press). 

Escobar is far from universally revered in Colombia. His own son, Juan Pablo Escobar, has readily denounced his father because of the massive death toll. He has even criticized Netflix's "Narcos" for being inaccurate in its depiction of the terror felt by many within range of Escobar's wrath (via El País). Still, there are many, both aware and unaware of Escobar's crimes, who continue to idolize him as an anti-establishment "man of the people" (via Pop Sugar).