Pablo Escobar in appreciation

December 10, 1993|By Art Buchwald

WE ARE here to say goodbye to Pablo Escobar, otherwise known to those who loved him as "El Snow White."

He lived a short but fruitful life distributing joy and cheer wherever he went. Just after his 44th birthday he was gunned down by vicious, cruel Colombian troops who were jealous of his looks and power.

El Snow White was a good man, and because of that he had his detractors. Many people said that he was a murderer, an assassin, an arsonist, a smuggler and the person responsible for blowing up a Colombian airline with 107 people on board. But this is only half the story. He always took care of the little guys -- the money launderers and the couriers and the people on the street who distributed his products.

El Snow White was a soft touch for any story. He handed out fistfuls of money to politicians, crooked narcotic agents and even members of the Colombian Coast Guard. He never expect to be repaid.

His kindness didn't stop at monetary donations. He helped judges and prosecutors supplement their income.

He wanted nothing in return. While hunting for federal narcotics soldiers in his jeep, he once told me, "My reward is to make people sing. That's why we are here on Earth." He then took aim and bagged a federale.

"Is shooting federal soldiers your favorite sport?" I asked him.

"It's one of them. People say that it's unfair to shoot narcs from a jeep, but I say you get them any way you can."

El Snow White, whom we mourn today, came from peasant stock but lived like a king with yachts, private planes and homes all over the country. Rumor has it that for a long time he even kept a furnished room at the Presidential Palace. He had style. Even when he was arrested, he designed his own jail and paid to have it built. No one in South America could equal El Snow White's architectural know-how.

I asked him on another occasion when he was strangling ducks to smuggle his product into the United States.

"Surely, even though you are beloved by many, there must be people in your business who would like to get rid of you?"

HTC He smiled. "I have no enemies. The reason for this is that I am the founder of this business and all of my competitors still respect me for leading the way. I go to their houses and they come to mine. If they get any ideas I'll strangle them like this duck."

"Let's suppose that someone does take a pot-shot at you and gets by your bullet-proof vest? How would you like to be remembered?"

"As a man who went to the edge; a person who was never late paying his telephone bill; a leader of the free world who could buy any politician up for sale. I want to be remembered as a dog lover and a collector of Louis XIV chairs. Most of all I hope that when the name El Snow White is mentioned, everyone will say, 'He may have killed a lot of people -- but nobody's perfect.' "

"How would you want to be buried?"

"I would love to be cremated and my ashes sold in little cellophane bags on Eighth Avenue street corners for $30 each."

Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.

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