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 and serve a maximum term of five years, and the Colombian government would not extradite him to the United States. In addition to the facility's being built to Escobar's specifications, Escobar was also given the right to choose who would guard him, and it was believed he chose chosen guards loyal only to him. Moreover, the prison was believed to have been designed more to keep out Escobar's enemies and protect him 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, giant doll house, bar, jacuzzi, and 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 although the government was willing to turn a blind eye to Escobar's continuing his drug smuggling, the arrangement fell apart when it was reported Escobar had four of his lieutenants tortured and murdered within La Catedral. The Colombian government decided it had to move Escobar to a standard prison, an order Escobar refused. In July 1992, after serving one year and one month, Escobar again went on the run. With the Colombian National Army surrounding La Catedral's facility, it is said Escobar simply walked out the back gate. The ensuing manhunt employed a 600-man unit force, 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.
- Cran, William (Author, Director, Producer) & Tepper, Stephanie (Producer) (March 25, 1997). "The Godfather of Cocaine". Frontline (#1309) (PBS).
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