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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.

That was a very difficult episode. I had just hung up the phone after talking with my father. Three minutes later a TV reporter called and told me he was dead. I was just a 15-year-old kid who had grown up around the most cruel violence. I said some unfortunate things. But 10 minutes later I retracted what I said and made a public promise that if someday I could help promote peace in Colombia, I would do it.

Along with your mother and sister, you fled Colombia. Where did you go?

Not one country wanted to accept us. We traveled from Colombia to Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, South Africa. Finally we arrived in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. It was the only nation on the planet that extended us a hand. It was a very sad place … . We thought we would live there for 10 years but we stayed only four days … . We went to look for universities and there were none. The only place to study medicine was in a garage. It didn’t matter if you had lots of money. There was no food. The supermarkets were absolutely empty. There were no clothes, no supplies. It was a disaster. We thought we had problems but things in Mozambique were even worse. I got very depressed and contemplated suicide because I saw no escape from our troubles.

How did you end up in Argentina?

We had return tickets to South America and stopped over for a few days in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. But we didn’t like it there so we went to the counter and bought tickets for the first flight to Buenos Aires. We entered on tourist visas on Christmas Eve 1994. (Because of the family’s new legal identities) no one knew who we were.

Why did you agree to make "The Sins of My Father"?

Since the death of Escobar, our family has received more than 100 offers from filmmakers and book writers. I always rejected them because the only things I’ve seen done about Pablo Escobar have been very irresponsible and sometimes glorify his crimes. But (the film’s director Nicolas Entel) proposed that we tell this story from the point of view of the sons of the protagonists. I wanted to do something positive for Colombian society that would show the errors of getting involved in drug trafficking.

Tell me about your meetings with the sons of the men your father had killed: Rodrigo Lara and Luis Carlos Galan.

While making the film, I decided to write a letter to their families as part of the reconciliation process. Then, in a very lovely gesture Rodrigo Lara (the son of the slain justice minister of the same name) came to Buenos Aires. We met in a Buenos Aires suburb. It was very relaxed. We hugged each other and it was one of the most comforting embraces I’ve ever received in my life.

What good is an apology coming from the son of the criminal rather than from the criminal himself?

The crimes of a father can end up perpetuating the hatred and violence between families. I, Sebastian Marroquin, am taking responsibility for the acts of my father in respect for the victims who suffered from his violence.

No one chooses their parents so, in a way, you too are a victim of your father.

Our family has always been treated as if we were guilty. People wanted to seek revenge from us because they could not do so with my father. No one else in the family had anything to do with criminal activities yet we’ve suffered the consequences. But we’ve found the path of life through the search for forgiveness and reconciliation.