Escobar Now Two Months on the Run
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ Despite persistent reports that he is on the verge of surrendering to authorities, druglord Pablo Escobar remains on the run after two months, issuing threats and perhaps even ordering killings.
He and nine of his men broke out of their resort-like prison near Medellin on July 22 during a failed government attempt to transfer them to a more secure facility.
Escobar has said in communiques and news interviews that he wants to turn himself in again. He surrendered for the first time in June 1991 under a government policy of lenient treatment.
In the Sept. 8 edition of Bogota’s El Nuevo Siglo newspaper, Escobar said he would be willing to surrender as long as he had certain security guarantees and was promised a jail in his home state of Antioquia.
″I will accept the most humble, most modest jail in Antioquia,″ he wrote in response to more than 100 questions sent to him in hiding.
But in a letter to the judicial police chief, Col. Luis Montenegro, Escobar warned authorities to stay away from his family and friends.
″If any of my loved ones disappear, I won’t hesitate to take action against the families of those responsible,″ Escobar wrote in a letter printed in Bogota’s El Tiempo newspaper on Thursday.
He apparently believed police were planning to kidnap his elderly father. Police sources dimissed the accusations as unfounded.
In remarks to the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, President Cesar Gaviria Trujillo conceded that Colombia has ″suffered severe setbacks″ in the war against drugs, including Escobar’s escape.
But he insisted that Colombia has turned the tide against drug traffickers.
″It is true that Pablo Escobar escaped from a jail, but he will not escape from the firm resolve of Colombians to see justice done,″ Gaviria said.
Many Colombians thought last week’s surrender of Jorge Eduardo Avendano, one of Escobar’s fugitive lieutenants, heralded Escobar’s own peaceful return to jail.
Catholic priest Rafael Garcia, a friend of Escobar’s, insisted the druglord would be ″giving the country a pleasant surprise very soon.″
Instead, Medellin, the capital of Antioquia, became the site of a savage attack on the justice system.
Judge Myriam Rocio Velez, who investigated what may be the government’s most solid case against Escobar, was killed Friday along with three of her bodyguards.
Her identity had been kept secret as she looked into charges that Escobar ordered the 1986 murder of newspaper publisher Guillermo Cano.
Velez is the second judge to be killed while investigating Escobar’s role in the Cano murder. Judge Carlos Ernesto Valencia was killed in August 1989.
Judicial offices say it is too early to link Velez’s murder to Escobar.
But Col. Daniel Alfonso Peralta, Medellin’s police commander, has been quoted as saying it is ″indisputable″ that Escobar ordered the killing.
Peralta added that his men have been closing in on the druglord and believe there is a chance he can be apprehended.
However, the newspaper El Tiempo reported on Sunday that the manhunt by the army and the intelligence police has been extensive, but unproductive.
Escobar is now being trailed through two provinces - Antioquia and neighboring Santander.
Officials believe Escobar usually hides in the mountains of central Antioquia, where he is a local hero and can bribe residents into concealing his whereabouts.