Drug Lord Turned Tourist Attraction: Company Offers Pablo Escobar Tour

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Jesus Abad / El Colombiano / AFP / Getty Images

Colombian police and military forces storm the rooftop where drug lord Pablo Escobar was shot dead just moments earlier in December 1993.

A Miami-based company is selling a tour in Medellín, the Colombian hometown of the world’s most notorious drug kingpin, complete with guided walks through Pablo Escobar’s home and the hideout where he was tracked down and killed — and it includes a chat with his brother, Roberto.

Needless to say, Colombian officials are not pleased with the company, See Colombia Travel, for glorifying one of the most reviled criminals in history, who was involved in the deaths of some 4,000 people and became one of the richest men in the world by trafficking cocaine. But spokesman JL Pastor defended the new tour — which has a price tag starting at $40 — saying, “I’ve been asked why we are glorifying Escobar, but we think he is the most repellent character in Latin American history. Even his brother is not at all apologetic. This is a bold move, but it is not an opportunity to take pictures with a machine gun, Scarface-style.”

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The creators of the “Pablo Escobar is History” tour take the stance that even though Escobar represents one of Colombia’s darkest periods, that doesn’t change the fact that his life and criminal activities are part of the country’s historical narrative and people are interested in learning about it when they visit Medellín. But the city isn’t alone in having an unfortunate claim to a very bad man. In fact, the tour isn’t the first such attraction in the area.

Escobar’s Napoles ranch, just outside of the city, was turned into a theme park in 2009 with an entry fee of about $8. The estate has pools, giant dinosaur statues, a plane that he used to traffic cocaine into the U.S. and a hippopotamus enclosure, because Escobar had an interest in wild animals. The tour, in comparison to the garish estate, seems understated.

But in addition to a tour of Escobar’s house in Medellín, those who pay the money will, according to the company’s website, be able to “ask Roberto any questions you like, pose for photos and get signed photos of Roberto.” Sounds like Roberto, who worked right alongside his brother in the drug trade, is being made into somewhat of a celebrity.

At the very least, See Colombia Travel says that it started the tour to show people how far the city has come. And if all of this isn’t enough information to wrestle with, the profits from the tour will also be donated to a charity that supports research into AIDS and HIV.

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Frances Romero is a writer-reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @frances_romero or on Tumblr. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page, on Twitter at @TIME and on TIME’s Tumblr.

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