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Killing Pablo

I had assumed Mark Bowden’s Killing Pablo would focus on the clandestine U.S. goons hunting down Pablo Escabar. It did, partly, and of course we all love reading about the extra-legal international escapades of the United States of America. But Bowden dedicated the far greater and more interesting portion of his book to the Colombians.

This part was deeply unsettling. Not the fact of the violence, necessarily, but the image of a society that could not respond to it. Dismantle a lab? He kills five cops. Arrest him? He sets of a car bomb. Indict him? He kills the public prosecutor. Bring him to trial? He kills the judge, the next judge, and the next judge’s family. Then he gets acquitted. This all gave me bad dreams.

In the end, the only way to stop a guy like Pablo was to use his tactics against him – that is, go vigilante, burn his stuff, and kill all his associates, including family members. The irony in the whole thing (irony?) is that Pablo never would have become so powerful if he didn’t have so much money, and the source of that money – extremely lucrative cocaine smuggling – was made possible by U.S. anti-drug policy.

Oh, and cocaine prices haven’t really gone up in 20 years (PDF). Meanwhile, the body count has.

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