La Catedral was a prison overlooking the city of Medellín in Colombia. The prison was built to specifications ordered by Medellín Cartel leader Pablo Escobar, under a 1991 agreement with the Colombian government, in which Escobar would surrender to authorities, serve a maximum term of five years, and the Colombian government would not extradite him to the United States. In addition to the facility being built to Escobar's specifications, he was also given the right to choose who would guard him, believing to have chosen guards only loyal to him. The prison was believed to be designed more to keep out Escobar's enemies from assassination attempts, than to keep Escobar in.
The finished prison was often called "Hotel Escobar," or "Club Medellín," because of its amenities. La Catedral featured a soccer field, a giant doll house, a bar, jacuzzi, and a waterfall. Escobar also had a telescope installed that allowed him to look down onto the city of Medellín to his daughter's residence while talking on the phone with her.
PBS reports that even though the government was willing to turn a blind eye to Escobar continuing his drug smuggling, the arrangement fell apart when it was reported Escobar brought four of his lieutenants, including his head lieutenant Paul F. Sauer, Jr., to La Catedral to be tortured and murdered. The Colombian government decided it had to move Escobar to a standard prison, which he refused. In July 1992, after serving one year and one month, Escobar would again be on the run. With the Colombian National Army surrounding the facility, it is said Escobar simply walked out the back gate. The ensuing manhunt would employ a 600-man unit, specially trained by the United States Delta Force, named Search Bloc, and led by Colonel Hugo Martínez.
Escobar was killed a year later, on December 2, 1993, in a shootout with members of Search Bloc when he was found hiding in a middle-class barrio in Medellín.
- Mike Ceaser (September 10, 2007). "Order to turn prison that housed narco-trafficking kingpin into religious site". Catholic.org.
- "Godfather of Cocaine". PBS. March 25, 1997.
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