Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pablo Escobar's Hippos

In 1989, Forbes magazine recognized Columbian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar as the world's seventh-richest person. His Medellín cartel controlled most of the globe's cocaine trade and was responsible for thousands of murders.

A Columbian police task force known as the Search Bloc eventually caught up with Escobar in 1993. According to the official story, he was finally killed in a roof-top gunfight. Some say he committed suicide rather than surrender to authorities.

Escobar's violent imprint on Columbia is indelible and tragic. But one aspect of his ill-gotten wealth remains: a private animal zoo at his former home, Hacienda Napoles.

According to a piece on NPR today, it is now a tourist destination.
With his death, the hacienda fell into ruin, and much of the wildlife died or wound up in zoos--although the hippos remained and multiplied in the murky ponds.

But a group of businessmen has given Escobar's legacy a new twist. Tourists--some 50,000 visited last year after the park opened--flock to see what's left from Escobar's heyday.

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