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Apologizing for a father's sins

Interview: The son of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar plays a central role in a film about his father’s violent legacy.

Pablo Escobar at his son's first communion in 1987. (Courtesy of the Marroquin Santos family)

BOGOTA, Colombia – When he heard the news that Pablo Escobar had been gunned down on a Medellin rooftop in 1993, the drug lord’s teenaged son, Juan Pablo, vowed to avenge his father’s death. “If it’s true,” he said, “I’ll kill all the sons of bitches.”

But rather than following in his father’s murderous footsteps in Colombia, Juan Pablo Escobar settled in Argentina. He married his longtime Colombian girlfriend and works as an architect. To avoid notoriety and harassment, he has changed his name to Sebastian Marroquin.

For years, Marroquin avoided the media. But now he’s emerged as the central character in a documentary about his father’s violent legacy: "Pecados de mi Padre," or "The Sins of my Father." In the film, Marroquin urges Colombian youths — some of whom still view Escobar as a romantic, Robin Hood-like figure — not to be tempted by the power and wealth of the current generation of cocaine kingpins.

The highlight of the documentary is when Marroquin apologizes to the sons of two of Pablo Escobar’s best-known victims: Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara, who was gunned down in 1984, and presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, assassinated by the drug lord’s hitmen five years later. The two politicians were targeted due to their fierce criticism of Colombia’s drug cartels.

"The Sins of My Father" premieres this month in the Argentine city of Mar del Plata. Marroquin recently spoke with GlobalPost about the film and about life with the world’s most notorious drug lord.

GlobalPost: Was Pablo Escobar a good father?

Sebastian Marroquin: I have no complaints about the way my father raised me. Thanks to him, I’m the person that I am. He instilled many values in me. He was a great dad. My father tried to keep things separated. He did everything he could to keep us isolated from his business and his decisions. Unfortunately, our lives were always mixed up with the surrounding violence.

How often did you see your father?

Our family life lasted until 1984 when, sadly, Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara was killed. I was only 7. From that moment, the family fell apart. My father went underground and we could never again be together in a normal setting. We were always running and it felt like I was a criminal, just like my father.

Did Pablo Escobar want you to take over the Medellin Cartel?

He always supported me and urged me to become the person I wanted to be. He said that if I wanted to be a doctor, he would give me the best hospital. If I decided to be a hairdresser, he would give me the best salon in the whole city. He never pressured me to join his organization or to follow in his footsteps.

When Pablo Escobar was killed, why did you vow revenge?