Ovidio Castro Medina

The life of notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar can soon be followed on the small screen in a series that recounts his reign over a vast criminal empire during the 1980s and early 1990s when he terrorized his country with murders and car bombs.

"Escobar, el Patron del Mal" (Escobar, Boss of Evil) is the title of this 63-episode series set to premiere next week on Caracol Television, produced by Juana Uribe and written by Camilo Cano, both victims of the kingpin, and which will air more than 20 years after his death.

Juana Uribe is the daughter of Maruja Pachon, a journalist kidnapped by Escobar in November 1990 and niece of Gloria Pachon de Galan, wife of Luis Carlos Galan, slain by the cartel boss's hired guns in August 1989.

Camilo Cano is the son of journalist Guillermo Cano, editor of the daily El Espectador who was murdered on Dec. 17, 1989 on orders of the drug lord.

Though a great number of "narcoseries" have been produced in Colombia, which in some cases have extolled the drug traffickers, in this case the cartel boss is pitilessly represented as a person who started his criminal career smuggling cigarettes and stealing cemetery stones, and who rose to occupy a seat in Congress.

"Modern generations don't know who Pablo Escobar was, a person who permeated the life of Colombians for 20 years," Uribe told Efe, adding that the series "does not praise" the man with the thick moustache and enough money to get practically everything he ever wanted.

Such was his power that at one time he offered to pay off Colombia's foreign debt. He had collections of vintage cars, costly motorcycles, works of art, extravagant homes with golden faucets and even a private zoo.

According to Uribe, the series shows who Escobar really was, a man who spent an incredible amount just on all the rubber bands he needed to bundle up the wads of dollars that came from selling tons of cocaine in the United States and Europe, for which he created routes, bribed authorities and made illegal border crossings an everyday part of his business.

"We want to tell the new generation who the few Colombians were that dared to defy the boss but died in the attempt," Uribe said.

For the producer, "it's surprising that the country has managed to survive and that it still has the will to grow and go on working. That's why it's important to tell the story from the victims' point of view."

The point is that Colombia must not forget that Escobar ordered the murder of judges, journalists, ministers and managed to checkmate four presidents by infiltrating enough strata of the government and society to defy the world, Uribe said.

The TV production is based on an in-depth investigation as well as the book "La Parabola de Pablo," written by Medellin's ex-Mayor Alonso Salazar.

The actors' wardrobes are carefully chosen and even the wig used by actor Andres Parra, who brilliantly plays the role of Pablo Escobar, was ordered from specialists overseas.

Each episode cost around $150,000 to make, a higher budget than is usually available for Colombian television productions.

The outdoor locations are in the cities of Bogota and Medellin, the latter being the home of the immense drug cartel that Escobar founded, as well as in the eastern llanos and Miami.

Besides Andres Parra in the lead role, the cast features Angie Cepeda in the role of Virginia Vallejo, the great television celebrity and the drug lord's mistress, Nicolas Montero who plays Luis Carlos Galan, and Cecilia Nava in the part of Escobar's wife and the mother of his three children.

Also in the series are German Quintero as El Espectador editor Guillermo Cano, Ernesto Benjumea as Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, the Justice minister who was murdered, and Carlos MariƱo as alias "Popeye", Escobar's henchman who planted more than 200 bombs in Colombia. EFE

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