Art meets life: Boyd Holbrook, Steve Murphy, Javier Pena and Pablo Pascal. Photo: Eric Charbonneau/Netflix Javier Pena and Steve Murphy in Colombia in the late 1980s.
成都桑拿

Before Javier Pena signed on as a consultant to the hit Netflix TV show Narcos he made one thing very clear to the producers.

Pena, a former DEA agent and veteran of the Colombian drug wars who spent five years hunting Pablo Escobar, could never countenance the drugs kingpin being presented as a champion of the people.

“The condition we had was that they wouldn’t glamorise Escobar,” he says. “We didn’t want people to see him as a Robin Hood hero. He was a deadly mass murderer.

“We told them the real truth about what happened during the search for Escobar and we taught them the history.”

So far, there have been two series of Narcos chronicling the extraordinary rise and ignominious death of the world’s most notorious narcoterrorist.

In the show, Pena is played by Pedro Pascal, while Boyd Holbrook plays Pena’s DEA colleague Steve Murphy.

Initially, Pena had his doubts about the show but it became a breakout hit for Netflix, garnering two Golden Globe nominations.

“We’re happy with the way it came out,” says Pena. “When it first came out I said no one is going to watch this and all of a sudden it was one of the best-watched shows.”

Pena was 32 when he and Murphy were dispatched to Bogota in 1988 to take the lead in bringing down Escobar.

“I didn’t know who Pablo Escobar was but I was a fast learner,” says Pena. “He was at the height of his power. He had all the money he needed – he was responsible for about 80 per cent of the cocaine reaching the United States.”

That money – by some estimates more than $US20 billion a year at its peak – allowed Escobar to buy the loyalty of a small army of sicarios, or assassins.

“He would recruit these young kids – 14 and 15-year-olds,” says Pena. “They worshipped Escobar. He gave them money and that made them loyal to him. They would kill anybody at his orders.”

More than one thousand police fell victim to Escobar’s hired killers.

Pena and Murphy were under constant threat throughout their five years in Colombia.

“My biggest fear was car bombs – being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” says Pena. “He planted a lot of bombs outside the old police base where we lived.

“I remember when I first landed in Medellin the cops there said, Javier, have you got a gun? I said yes. They said pull it out. We used to drive around with our guns by our seats.”

Escobar was finally killed on a Bogota rooftop in December 1993. Who fired the fatal shot is unclear, but there is a now notorious photograph of a grinning agent Murphy crouching behind Escobar’s bloodied corpse.

Pena was chasing up other leads during the dramatic rooftop chase, which he regrets.

“I wish I had been there,” he says. “It’s a great photo. We are happy that the guy responsible for killing thousands and thousands of people is finally dead.

“If you look at that picture of Escobar on the roof you have to remember this guy used to be a billionaire with hundreds of bodyguards. Towards the end he had one bodyguard, he was out of money. In the picture he is unkempt, he’s barefoot he has a beard and his hair is all over the place.”

In a curious case of life meeting art, Pena and Murphy will come to next year for a short speaking tour called Capturing Pablo.

Pena says they tell true story behind the hunt for Escobar, shorn of the dramatic liberties of the Netflix series.

“Obviously they took artistic licence to make it interesting,” he says.

And there is one particular detail Pena takes exception to.

“Pedro’s a great guy,” he says, “but I think I was a little bit more handsome than him.”

Capturing Pablo, An Evening With Javier Pena and Steve Murphy, Sydney Opera House July 11 and Hamer Hall, Melbourne July 13