The growing fascination over the life and downfall of notorious drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar has inspired several movies and television shows over the last few years.
On Tuesday night, a few days before the second season of Netflix’s “Narcos” is set to premiere, National Geographic Channel will launch a new docu-series about some of the stories behind this larger-than-life character.
The series, called “Facing,” features interviews with some of the men who stood up against the Colombian drug lord, like former DEA Agents Steve Murphy and Javier Peña, as well as one of Escobar’s most trusted sicarios, John Jairo “Popeye” Velasquez, who was convicted of murder and drug trafficking in 1992.
“The thing I really like about this series is that NatGeo was able to secure some individuals that have never been interviewed before,” Murphy told Fox News Latino on Monday. “I hate to give this guy credit, but they got John Jairo Velazquez ‘Popeye.’ He was one of Pablo’s best sicarios, one of his favorite sicarios. That guy is scary … We are talking about a stone cold murder and he’s talking on the show.”
Murphy, who joined the DEA in the mid-1980s, was first assigned to Miami, Florida — he said that while it was an exciting time fighting the growing local drug war, he felt he wanted more. In 1991, he was transferred to Bogota, Colombia and was assigned to work in the manhunt for Escobar.
“It was all consuming. Being a DEA agent is not a 9 to 5, Monday thought Friday job. It’s actually a lifestyle that you undertake if you are going to be successful,” he said.
The manhunt for Escobar – which included him at one point surrendering to the Colombian government and him building his own prison with luxury accommodations – ended on December 2, 1993 with his death. Murphy and Peña were on hand for the final capture.
“I am surprised with all of the fascination (surrounding Escobar),” Peña told FNL, adding that it’s also a lesson in world history that needs to be shared so that it’s not repeated. “It’s real life. It’s happened and you cannot capture it in a movie, you cannot capture it in a book. You can try to tell people but to see that raw, savage, terrorist campaign – how do we let this happen?”
He added: “We are all good people and we are not going to be involved in any of this trafficking. So the fascinating thing is to see how a person, a trafficker of this caliber, can do that terrorism, barbaric things.”
Both Murphy and Peña, who serve as consultants to ‘”Narcos,” understand why Escobar has been portrayed as a Robin Hood-like character in the past, because for many in Medellin, he was. However, he was also a manipulator who sought power with money and the power of lead.
“I hope viewers realize that this cannot happen again. People need to fight it,” Peña said.
“Facing” premieres tonight on National Geographic Channel at 9 p.m.