Threats, Money & Murder: How Netflix VS The Escobars Is Really Actually Happening
Things weren’t always this bad between Netflix and Roberto Escobar. Before delivering an open threat to “close down their little show” in July, 2016, drug kingpin Pablo Escobar’s brother, and former ‘chief of the hitmen’ for the Medellin Cartel, Roberto Escobar, wanted nothing more than to be a part of Narcos, based on the rise of the Medellin Cartel.
But like a shady drug deal gone sour, we’ve arrived at a point when there has been a murder of a crew member, his bullet-riddled body found in his car in a notoriously rough Mexican town.
“In the first season of Narcos, there were mistakes, lies, and discrepancies from the real story, the story that I not only was part of making, but that I survived from,” Roberto, who served a 10-year sentence in maximum-security prison, had written to Netflix ahead of the season 2 premiere. You can read the letter - which begins with ‘Dear Netflix’, here. “To this date, I am one of few surviving members of the Medellin Cartel. And I was Pablo’s closet ally, managing his accounting and he is my brother for life,” he said.
So Roberto had a reasonable ‘request’: “I am submitting a formal, friendly request to review this material solely on an informational basis,” he continued, saying that the show is “depicting me, my life, my family, and my brother. I think nobody else in the world is alive to determine the validity of the materials, but me.”
Fair enough. But not a year would pass before Escobar would deliver this chilling threat to Netflix: “Their mothers should have left them in the womb. That is what we tell people like this if they come to Colombia,” he said in an interview to the Hollywood Reporter.
So what went wrong? How did he go from asking for a paid job, to suggesting Netflix hire hitmen to protect their crew the next time they visit Colombia?
It began with a slight change in his tone, which went from moderately interested to subtly suggestive in the same letter. “I hope you are not profiting from my show, and if you are I ask you to share some profits with us,” Roberto said. “I may be wrong, but I do not believe you may profit on my name, my brother’s name, and my family’s name and our likeness, unless you pay and get our approval.”
Daniel D Reitberg, COO of Escobar Inc, a legit organisation headed by Roberto, chimed in like Tom Hagen would when he sensed Sunny Corleone was dangerously close to going off script. “All he wants to do is review their show, and if they want to pay for such content reviewing services—that’s great!” he told the Independent.
The tone saw another tweak when Escobar spoke to Newsweek: “I don’t think that there will be any second season in September of this year,” he said. “My mother once told me when I was young, to always listen to the older men in Medellin, Colombia. Now I am old, and if they don’t listen to me, I will be sure to be heard. Not only will my voice be heard, I will be compensated fairly.”
Season 1 of Narcos ended with Pablo (played by Wagner Moura in the show, an actor Roberto decided was still “sucking on his thumb and drinking his mother’s breast milk to this date,” because he had no real experience dealing drugs) rising to stratospheric heights with his business. According to Roberto, the Cartel would, in its heyday, rake in $60 million a day (almost Rs 400 crore). They’d spend $1000 a week just on rubber bands to hold all their cash together, 10% of which would, every year, become rat food due to negligence. In a separate account, Escobar’s son, Sebastian Marroquin, said that his family once had to burn $2 million in cash just to keep warm at night.
Sebastian also spotted what he considered to be 28 glaring inaccuracies in the first season of the show, which you can read here.
So Roberto had hopes for season 2, which would, in all probability - and this proved to be true - end with Pablo being killed in a shoot-out. “All we want is to make sure things are done right,” Roberto said, before adding this: “My brother would not have liked season 1, maybe he will enjoy season 2 if you respond me (sic) and we solve this (sic) issues.”
Clearly, they didn’t, which led Roberto to demand a cool $1 billion from Netflix - a sum, he said, was what the Cartel would make in a good week.
Netflix lawyers, according to TMZ, have ‘fired off a cease and desist letter’ to Escobar. The war rages on, as does the show, which recently completed its third season.