Pablo Escobar hand-crafted perfect prison to allow drug lords daring escape

Pablo Escobar has a criminal legacy like no other.

Heralded by some communities in his hometown of Medellin, Colombia, as a hero, his vast fortune transformed parts of the city and made him the wealthiest criminal in history.

Escobar even managed to negotiate a huge plot of land to build his own fortress-like prison, known as 'La Catedral', immortalised in Netflix's Narcos Season Two – and the truth behind the prison is just as wild as the drama makes it out to be.

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Since housing the king of cocaine, the prison has transformed into a home for monks, religious pilgrims and senior citizens – but before it received its new lease of life it first saw a showdown between Escobar and the Colombian authorities as Escobar desperately tried to escape a life behind bars.

This is how Pablo Escobar created his perfect prison – and how he ultimately escaped it.

Larger-than-life Escobar was able to acquire a huge plot of land to create his dream lock-up – from hand-picking the people who built the prison itself to choosing his perfect location.

Positioned on a steep hill, the prison's premises gave Escobar the ability to spot advancing enemies should they come his way and was often engulfed in thick layers of fog, making it invisible to airborne attacks.

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Machine guns and rifles aplenty were also buried at the prison in case of an ambush.

What's most shocking is the fact that Colombian authorities agreed to Escobar's many demands for his own incarceration. El Patron had surrendered himself to the government, agreeing to cease his violent criminal activity in exchange for a reduced sentence and preferential treatment during his imprisonment.

And it wasn't Pablo alone who inhabited the castle-like prison – murderers, politicians, other drug lords, professional football players, prostitutes and beauty pageant queens also called La Catedral home, but it was Escobar who ran the show.

While most prisons conjure images of tiny cells and mushy food, Pablo treated the other residents to a bar, sauna, meals from award-winning chefs and luxurious banquets, all out of his own pocket.

The lavish prison even earned the nicknames 'Hotel Escobar' and 'Club Medellin' because of how luxurious it was.

However some residents opposed the hierarchy.

After complaining about his behaviour, drug trafficker Kiko Moncada and hitman Fernando Galeano met a grizzly fate when Escobar murdered them, accusing them of stealing his money and hoping to re-establish his hold on the prison.

This action would ultimately lead to the Colombian government’s raid on La Catedral and Pablo's great escape.

In a 2018 article for the Daily Beast, Escobar's son Sebastián Marroquín, also known as Juan Pablo Escobar, revealed his father knew about the Colombian government’s plan to move him to a different prison in advance.

News spread quickly, not only about the murders, but that Escobar was still running his cartel from La Catedral.

Once America caught wind of the seedy goings-on, pressure mounted on Colombia to deal with Escobar.

The president at the time, César Gaviria, decided to move Pablo to a real prison, giving rise to the raid on La Catedral.

On the evening of his escape, the Colombian army arrived at the prison to escort the king of cocaine to new premises. However, Pablo’s hand-picked prison guards turned their weapons on them and demanded they leave because they were trespassing.

Under Escobar's agreement with the government, this was technically true. Nevertheless, the army refused to leave.

Instead of storming the prison, they sent in the vice secretary of justice, Eduardo Mendoza, and the prison director, Colonel Hernando Navas Rubio.

Escobar first tried to reason with the men, but when they wouldn't budge, things escalated and the men soon found themselves tied up, securing Escobar the time to run – as he knew the army wouldn't attack with two high-ranking officials trapped in the prison.

Under the cover of darkness, and knowing that the army had their hands tied, Escobar led the captured men through the escape route he built during the construction of the prison.

Pablo then directed his guards to lead Navas and Mendoza out to safety. While this happened, Pablo, his brother Roberto and eight more of Pablo’s men were able to flee. A bang was soon heard sounded as the army tore down the entrance of the jail, searching every room.

It took them twelve hours to realise Escobar was gone – by which point he and his men had safely settled in his Medellin home.

Escobar died during a shootout with the Colombian Police less than 18 months later, a day after his 44th birthday.

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