Was Escobar an extremely intelligent man, or just gifted with an abundance of good luck and low cunning?
I don’t think he was all that intelligent. He was smart and ruthless, and he was in the right place at the right time. One of the guys I interviewed, who was a member of [the vigilante death squad] Los Pepes, and who had known Escobar from the very beginning, made a point of stressing to me that Pablo Escobar didn’t create the cocaine business. He had no entrepreneurial or management skills to speak of. It was just that everybody was afraid of him. If anybody discovered a trade route or a new way of doing things, Pablo would come knocking and say, “OK, you work for me now.” You couldn’t say no to him. What about the people who surrounded Escobar — were they just thugs or was there someone who was the equivalent, say, of Meyer Lansky in the American mob: the brains of the operation, but not at the top? I’ve heard, though I can’t know this for sure, that both Escobar’s brother, Roberto, and his cousin, who was later killed, were very shrewd and bright; and also his brother-in-law, who w