This brand threatens morals, public order and the law
Pablo Escobar is a name that still stirs strong emotions 20 years after his death. The Colombia drug lord ran a vast cocaine empire, ordered thousands of enemies killed and became one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world in the 1980s.
Now the name is making headlines again as the drug lord’s family try to establish the Escobar brand on a range of clothing. Escobar’s son wants to trademark his father’s name, fingerprint and signature, but the Colombian government has rejected the application.
“[The Escobar family] wanted to do what we call a mixed-brand, combining his signature and fingerprint. They wanted to use this information in the form of, let’s say, the Lacoste lizard,” he said.
“This brand threatens morals, public order and the law. It goes against the values of our constitution, which includes peace, freedom and the right to live. This brand communicates the anti-values of the state. It’s an ode to violence.”
It was Mr. Londono who rejected the family’s request to have absolute rights over the Escobar name, but that hasn’t stopped them from selling clothing in other countries.
Escobar’s son, who calls himself Sebastian Marroquin, says the clothing line is to promote peace.
“Those public officials do not know anything about my projects and the lives of my father and my family,” he said.
“I wanted to register my father’s name [as a brand] to protect it from bad usage, manipulation and profit-making by the Colombian government and the media who are making up stories.”
Last year, he started an online shop, selling memorabilia adorned with personal details of Escobar, such as his face and facsimiles of his criminal dossier.
Items under the “Escobar Henao” brand — based on Mr. Marroquin’s original last names — are now sold in stores in Mexico, the United States, Austria, Puerto Rico and Guatemala. And people can’t get enough. “We’ve had orders from all continents,” Mr. Marroquin wrote in an email to the National Post.
“We sell a lot,” said Vianey Loya, a sales clerk who works at Pavi Plaza Forum, one of the shops peddling Escobar memorabilia in Culiacan, Mexico.
“We sell T-shirts and pants. Some styles have his face on it, others are just basic T-shirts and denim jeans.”
Classic polo shirts with the face of the criminal are especially popular.
“We have all kinds of people buying them, from children to adults. We’ve been carrying the brand for more than a year now. It sells well,” Ms. Loya said.
While Mr. Marroquin produces the clothes in Colombia, he does not sell them there out of respect to Escobar’s victims, he says.
“Escobar Henao is sending clear messages of peace, so that we can recover the values we lost as a society as a result of the failed fight against drugs,” he wrote in the email.
That fight centred on his father, leader of the bloody Medellin cartel who successfully brought the Colombian state to its knees through numerous terrorist attacks on the government and the public.
Escobar, who began his criminal career as a cemetery thief, is estimated to have been responsible for the deaths — directly or indirectly — of at least 5,000 people. His victims included any government official, presidential candidate or journalist who dared condemn drug trafficking or favoured extradition of drug criminals to the United States.
The head of his squadron of hit men, who goes by the name Popeye, has admitted killing at least 3,000 people for his boss, many through more than 100 bombs set off at schools, banks, hotels, telephone and electric companies.
Escobar’s vast power enabled him to bomb an HK 1803 Avianca airlines plane on a commercial flight, killing 107 people, as well as finance a guerrilla group’s seizure of the national courthouse in Bogota.
His cocaine trade made him wealthy beyond belief. In 1987, Forbes magazine listed him as the world’s seventh-richest man. He had his own zoo, mansions all over Colombia and private planes that were used to smuggle drugs.
He eluded many attempts to capture him, hiding in Medellin’s shantytowns, but eventually died in a shoot-out with police in 1993.
In 2012, [itals] Pablo Escobar, Lord of Evil [end itals] had viewers riveted to their televisions in Colombia and across the Hispanic world.
The 133-episode soap opera, produced by private channel Caracol TV, was based on a book by journalist Alonso Salazar, who spent nearly a decade researching the drug lord’s life.
Mr. Marroquin, who constantly appears in the media rebutting accounts of Escobar’s activities, called the TV show insulting. He said his brand is meant to clean the name of the father he loves with “all his soul.”
Nonetheless, “soft” spinoffs from the drug business are becoming popular — and highly profitable. As well as the soap operas, they include narco-corridos, songs praising the drug gangster’s exploits.
Critics say these products glorify the criminal life and romanticize public menaces like Escobar, while minimizing the damage caused by their activities.
“I agree with [the Colombian government’s] denial of the brand,” said Pablo Cordoba, a commercial law professor at Externado University in Bogota.
“As a Colombian, I think this was very bad of [the family] to do, and they shouldn’t have done it. It would be like trying to emulate a person that was devastating for the history of Colombia.”
Mr. Londono said the government wanted to stop any exploitation associated with the Escobar name.
“We are not denying free expression,” he said. “If someone wants to write a book saying [Escobar] was the Robin Hood of the poor, they are welcome to do so.
“They just cannot register a criminal’s name as a brand and enjoy the services associated with it.”
Source: National Post