When asked if they had any regrets, their response was united and immediate; “That we didn’t catch him sooner”.
Javier Pena and Steve Murphy were two of the DEA agents who led the search for Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. After they assisted in his capture and assassination in December of 1993, the pair’s story was turned into the hit Netflix Original Series Narcos. The show portrays the lengthy battle the DEA agents, along with the Colombian government, fought against Escobar and his accomplices.
Pena and Murphy spoke at Bryant as part of their series of presentations around the world. Last year they had 75 shows, and this year their stop at Bryant is part of their 90 show tour. Generally, their speeches consist of the history of the drug war in Colombia and their adventures searching the country for Pablo Escobar, accompanied by a slideshow of pictures to give first-hand examples of their experiences.
Before his death, Pablo Escobar was deemed the seventh richest man in the world by Forbes magazine. Escobar’s team produced around 80% of the world’s cocaine supply, and was able to smuggle it from Colombia to places where it was in high demand. These places were often in the US, mainly Miami where the use of cocaine was very common in the late 1980’s. Escobar would pay men and women to smuggle the drugs across the border, and due to pre-September 11th security, these transactions were often successful.
Escobar was (and still is) seen by some as the “Robin hood” of Colombia because of how he brought money into the country and provided jobs for men and women who wouldn’t have had work without him. While this silver lining is seen by some, Escobar is considered one of the most dangerous and evil men in the history of narcoterrorism (the trade of illicit drugs). Pena and Murphy described the senseless deaths and pure violence he caused on those who didn’t agree with him, recounting the deaths of their friends and fellow agents who fought to protect those harmed by the drug trade.
“How much do you think he paid for the murder an officer?” Pena asked the crowd at Bryant. “$100.”
Escobar was described as having no respect for any authority figure who thought negatively of him, and often would kill all the family members and friends of those who went against him. It is estimated by some that Escobar is responsible for 10,000-15,000 deaths during his years in the cocaine business.
The drug lord’s death came after years of officers hunting him down, and while the actual group that killed him in his parent’s house in 1993 was led by Colombian electronic surveillance operator Brigadier Hugo Martínez, Pena and Murphy are credited for their years of searching and nearly successful attempts at assassination. The pair turned down multiple negations and offers to create a
show surrounding them before their received the Netflix offer, wanting to make sure that the creators of the show had the right motivations and methodology for describing what happened.
According to Pena and Murphy, “one third of the stuff on the show is true”. Some of the other content is partially true, but there are bits of the show that are completely made up to create entertaining television. The show does hold true to parts of their personal lives, especially when showing how much of an impact the country of Colombia had on their lives in the long run. Murphy and his wife adopted two Colombian girls during his time working in Colombia, which is hinted at on the TV show when Murphy’s character decides to adopt one child while in Colombia.
Some of the made up content in the show has created what Pena and Murphy deem are false ideologies about their personalities, including how Pena is portrayed to have helped “Los Pepes”, a group of self-proclaimed “enemies of Pablo Escobar” that would perform murders and other acts of violence on those believed to be helping Escobar. Pena and Murphy, while making it clear which parts of their story are true and which are not, are pleased with the way the show came out, and admit to binge watching it together.
Steve Murphy and Javier Pena’s presentation on their role in the assassination of Pablo Escobar gives the average person a glimpse into the importance of DEA agents in world safety. While they may not be able to go into specifics regarding the missions they were sent on or the best and worst parts of their job, Javier Pena and Steve Murphy definitely had a wild time chasing Pablo Escobar around Colombia.