Pablo Escobar: How drug kingpin’s associate ‘avoided being fed alive to crocodiles’

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Luis Antonio Navia spent 25 years in the criminal underworld where he served as a logistical drug trafficker for some of the most dangerous gangs. He helped to import more than 300 tonnes of cocaine, approximately worth £7.6billion. Mr Navia worked for Pablo Escobar’s infamous Medellín Cartel, in Colombia, and once met the notorious drug lord, whose life was adapted into the 2015 TV show Narcos on Netflix. The cocaine trafficker’s spree came to an end in 2000 after he was caught as part of a massive 12-nation crackdown. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison but only served six years. Now an advisor to law enforcement agencies in the US and around the world, Mr Navia recounted the terrifying tales from his time as a to Express.co.uk.

The former drug trafficker, who was known as El Senador, was picked-up by the Mexican cartel because they thought he was trying to “sneak under the radar” and operate their patch. 

He tried to fight them off and refused to get in their car, because his death was guaranteed if he did and felt that he would prefer to be “shot dead” on the street.

Cancun at the time was described as the “ground zero of coke” by Jesse Fink, who co-wrote Mr Navia’s book Pure Narco, which was released earlier this month. 

During that fateful encounter in March 1997, Mr Navia believed Metro, who he described as a “psychopath”, was going to kill him in a particularly gruesome and painful way.

He told Express.co.uk: “Look, when you do the right thing 99 percent of the time, the right thing works out for you and to your benefit. 

“But we were on our way to the crocodiles, I was going to get thrown in – these people are rough and don’t forgive certain things.”

Mr Navia had visited Cancun with his wife Patricia, who was seven months pregnant with their second child, and had tried to get in touch with Metro when he landed but was unable to reach him.

Instead, he went to a bar in the hope of finding one of Metro’s associates and met a guy named Gil, one of his transporters. 

They had some drinks while they played pool and during their final game, Mr Navia wagered $250,000 “for the hell of it” and lost.

The next day, after he had been kidnapped, Mr Navia desperately tried to contact Gil in the hope of validating his story and proving that he was not trying to work there without permission. 

Metro didn’t believe him and described it as a “f***ing cockeyed story” – but desperate to save his life, Mr Navia kept “trying to call Gil, who was clearly hungover and wouldn’t answer his phone”.

Soon they arrived at México Magico, “an abandoned amusement park where they kept crocodiles in a lagoon at the back”.

Mr Navia said: “Metro used to take people there and throw them in there. That was known.

“I pleaded with him, ‘Please will you call, maybe he will answer your call’ and when Gil picked up, Metro told him the only thing that was going to be left of me was my white tennis shoes.

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“He told him, ‘No don’t do that, he owes me $250,000 from a pool game’ and Metro couldn’t believe that something so off the wall was actually true.”

Metro joked that Mr Navia was “f***ing crazier” than him and before being dropped off at the hotel, he said: “Today’s your f***ing day, motherf***er!” 

Mr Navia reflected: “Losing $250,000 was very lucky, maybe if I had won the guy would have said ‘No, what pool game?’ Actually, even if I won he would have said so.

“These people are who they are – volatile, violent people – but they do have a sense of worth.”

Mr Navia’s wife Patricia, who was initially unaware of the near-fatal encounter, recalled her husband’s expression when he got back to their hotel room. 

She told writer Jesse Fink: “His face had changed. Really changed. He was so afraid. He was in shock. It was a different kind of fear.”

Mr Navia felt extremely lucky to have survived especially because he knew of Metro’s reputation and that he “was killing people indiscriminately every f***ing day”. 

In Pure Narco, he wrote: “Metro was killing people. He was psychotic. He was a psychopath. He is a psychopath…

“Any tip he got, anybody working, anybody that he thought was working, anybody that he thought that he thought was working, got whacked. 

“I lost $250,000 playing pool and that’s really f***ed up. But it saved my life. 

“If I would have gone to bed that night, I wouldn’t have gone out to the bar and just got up and played tennis, I would have been dead.”

Pure Narco: One Man’s True Story Of 25 Years Inside The Columbian And Mexican Cartels, which was written by Jesse Fink and Luis Navia, was published by Bonnier Books last month and is available here.

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