Escobar’s widow sorry for ‘damage’
The widow of Pablo Escobar fell madly in love as a pre-teen with the man who would rise to be a ruthless drug lord, but she says she felt raped when at age 14 he forced her to have a clandestine abortion, and over time came to view him as a cruel psychopath.
The revelation comes in a memoir, My Life and My Prison With Pablo Escobar ,in which Maria Henao for the first time opens up about her life alongside one of the world’s most ruthless criminals, portraying herself more as a victim of the boundless violence of the Medellin cartel boss than as an accomplice to his lawbreaking.
In the book’s epilogue, titled ‘‘The secret I’ve held for years,’’ Henao describes being taken by Escobar to a ramshackle clinic and lying down on a stretcher while an elderly woman inserted several plastic tubes into her womb. She says she didn’t know she was pregnant and was told it was just a means of pregnancy prevention. Over several days she endured bleeding and intense pain as a pregnancy was aborted. With time, and much therapy, she says she came to view the experience as a ‘‘violation.’’
She writes that she had been ‘‘paralysed’’ with fear the first time Escobar was intimate with her. ‘‘I wasn’t ready. I did not have the necessary tools to understand what this intimate and intense contact meant,’’ she says.
Talking of the abortion, something she had kept even from her children until now, she says, ‘‘I had to connect with my history and immerse myself in the depths of my soul, to find the courage to reveal the sad secret that I have harboured for 44 years.’’
Henao says she decided to break her long silence and write the 523-page book with the hope that younger generations of Colombians would see how much blood has been spilled in Colombia as a result of its cocaine business.
But it is also a page-turner that provides an intimate look at Escobar’s fast evolution from a small-time grave robber to one of the world’s most wanted fugitives.
Henao says she met Escobar when she was 12. She came from an upstanding, traditional family in the Envigado district near Medellin and disobeyed her parents by falling in love with Escobar, the son of a poor watchman who rode around their neighbourhood in a flashy Vespa motorcycle and was 11 years her senior.
During a courtship that led to marriage when Henao was 15, Escobar showered her with gifts like a yellow bicycle and serenades of romantic ballads. ‘‘He made me feel like a fairy princess and I was convinced he was my Prince Charming,’’ she writes.
But from the start there were long, unexplained absences and he frequently flirted with other women. As Escobar began to amass a fortune, he also became manipulative and paranoid, she says.
Henao insists she was largely kept in the dark about details of his criminal activities and says she escaped from the ‘‘inferno’’ of living alongside Escobar by creating an alternative world devoted to their two children and collecting expensive artworks by the likes of Dali and Rodin.
After the Medellin cartel’s 1984 assassination of Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara, Escobar went into hiding and waged a bloody war with the state that included killing a presidential candidate and blowing up a commercial jetliner.
Over much of the next decade, until Escobar died during a 1993 rooftop shootout with police, the family’s contact with the kingpin consisted of short visits to safe houses where Henao and her children arrived blindfolded and were escorted by Escobar’s army of assassins.
In an interview with Colombia’s W Radio before the November 15 publication of the book, Henao started off by apologising to Colombians for what she said was the enormous damage her husband caused the nation. –AP
In this undated file photo, the late Pablo Escobar, former boss of the Medellin drug cartel, and his wife Maria Henao attend a soccer match in Bogota, Colombia.