Sins of My Father

America’s Quarterly

Winter 2010

I decided to make “Sins of My Father” when I met Sebastián Marroquín, the only son of Pablo Escobar, in late 2005. Heavy set with unruly black hair, Sebastián bears a striking resemblance to his father and had been living in Argentina under a new identity for more than ten years, but few people knew about him, and no one knew his story.

Born Juan Pablo Escobar, Sebastián grew up amidst the horrible violence of his father’s Medellín cartel. Between 1984 and his death in 1993, Escobar ordered hundreds of people from all walks of life killed. Former President César Gaviria has described the violence surrounding Escobar as “the worst in Colombian history.”

Sebastián also endured the violence of his father’s enemies, including a group of paramilitaries calling themselves “People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar” or “Los PEPES.” Bankrolled by the rival Cali cartel and facilitated by Colombian security forces, Los PEPES killed dozens of Escobar’s associates.

Los PEPES forced Sebastián and his mother to seek the protection of the Colombian government. Thus, Sebastián’s safety depended on the very people who were at war with his father.

Sebastián was 16 when Colombian Special Forces killed Escobar. He had to choose between following in his father’s footsteps or breaking with the cycle of violence that had shaped his life to date. Sebastián chose the latter. Los PEPES agreed to lift a $4 million bounty on his head, and the Attorney General of Colombia, Gustavo de Greiff, provided new identities for him, his mother and his sister.

In return, Sebastián, his mother and his sister agreed to leave Colombia forever and sever their links to the family business.

After a brief stay in Mozambique, Sebastián and his family arrived in Argentina under their new identities. Their movements were so secret that then-President Carlos Menem was unaware of their arrival.

After 11 years of silence, Sebastián agreed to tell me the story of his life with his father. He warned me, however, that he would never set foot in Colombia. Sebastián feared what might happen if he did…

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