Sunday, December 5, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Families To Share Bounty On Escobar -- $6.2 Million Reward `To Ease The Anguish'


MEDELLIN, Colombia - A $6.2 million bounty on drug lord Pablo Escobar's head will be shared by the widows and orphans of his victims and the men who hunted him down, President Cesar Gaviria said yesterday.

"We will use the reward money to ease the anguish of the families of those who fell in the fight," Gaviria said in the city where Escobar was shot and killed by security forces Thursday.

The 44-year-old head of the Medellin cartel was accused of ordering the assassinations of presidential candidates, judges, journalists and police. Hundreds of other Colombians died in the bombing of shopping centers, neighborhoods and a passenger airplane.

In Medellin, the base of his ring's operations, Escobar and his gang were blamed for the deaths of at least 500 police officers since 1989.

Despite his cartel's violence, Escobar had many fans among the poor, who yesterday continued to mourn their hero's death. Escobar, who began his criminal career as a car thief, had financed urban-renewal projects for the impoverished neighborhoods of his native Medellin.

After Escobar died, "there were a lot of tears, a lot of desperation, because for us it was like losing a father," said 26-year-old Marcela Jaramillo, who lives in a neighborhood the drug trafficker built for the poor.

Thousands of people attended Escobar's funeral Friday at a cemetery on the outskirts of Medellin.

Among those whom Escobar's family invited to speak at the burial

was Isaura Garcia, 72, known as the "grandmother" of the Medellin Without Slums neighborhood group.

Garcia said Escobar's mother, Hermilda Gaviria de Escobar, told her to " `tell them what Pablo was really like, what he did for you and your people.' So I did."

Although Escobar won support in Medellin by sharing a small portion of the billions of drug dollars he made, he also recruited boys from the city's slums as his hired assassins.

"He took our young people without hope and turned them into killers," said a Medellin resident who identified himself only as Leon.

"Escobar was not a hero," Gaviria said during his speech honoring the police and soldiers who hunted the drug trafficker for 16 months before killing him. "He was a delinquent who received the punishment that criminals deserve.

"No one should remember Medellin as the city of the cartel. There is no more Medellin cartel. That name died with Escobar."

Gaviria said most of the $6.2 million the government had offered for Escobar's capture dead or alive will go the families of his victims. Some money also will be used to build housing for the security forces who hunted him down and killed him, he said.

Escobar's death was not expected to make a serious dent in the flow of cocaine from Colombia to the United States and to other countries. But many Colombians hope his demise will help ease the drug-related violence that has plagued this South American nation for more than a decade.

Tipped off by several traced phone calls, including one Escobar made to his 16-year-old son, Juan Pablo, police and soldiers raided the drug lord's two-story hideout Thursday.

They shot and killed the portly, bearded Escobar and his bodyguard as they tried to escape over the roof.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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