Car Bomb in Mónaco Building

The explosion of a car bomb outside the Mónaco Building in 1988 marked the start of the war between the drug cartels. Photograph: El Mundo.

However, the Mónaco Building was constructed as a bunker and the structure did not collapse from the 80 kg of dynamite. Photograph: El Mundo.

According to Juan Pablo Escobar, son of Pablo Escobar, pieces of the car bomb’s bodywork entered the building they were in. Photograph: El Mundo.

The Cali Cartel detonated a car bomb in the Mónaco Building in Medellín, the home of the drug trafficker Pablo Escobar Gaviria and his family. This narcoterrorism attack aggravated the dispute over foreign narcotics markets and led to the war between these illegal groups.

At 5:30 am on January 13, 1988, members of the Cali Cartel detonated a green Toyota loaded with 80 kg of dynamite on the west side of the Mónaco Building in Medellín, where the drug trafficker Pablo Escobar Gaviria lived with his family. Several shots were heard moments before.

Start of the Cartel War

The Mónaco Building was not the only one owned by the drug trafficker that suffered attacks with explosives. The same occurred in his properties including country houses, homes and the Cama Suelta nightclub in Envigado.

Hélmer Herrera, known as “Pacho” Herrera, one of the bosses of the Cali Cartel, was behind the attack on the building located in Santa María de los Ángeles neighborhood in the area of El Poblado. Pablo Escobar disputed control of international drug trafficking with him, especially in New York.

This event indicated the start of a gory war between the cartels that included more attacks, targeted killings and massacres.

Effects and Damages

Despite the scale of the explosion, which reached several parts of the city, the eight-floor building that Pablo Escobar had built not only as a home but also as a protective bunker did not collapse.

The boss of the Medellín Cartel was not present at the time of the explosion, but his wife María Victoria Henao and two children Juan Pablo and Manuela were asleep in the penthouse. Manuela was wounded and suffered a hearing injury with long-term damage. Thanks to the security system provided by Pablo Escobar, the family was quickly evacuated.

The nearby homes and structures were seriously affected, especially the next building, Bahía Blanca, where as well as the windows, the doors, part of the front of the building, the elevators and various fittings were destroyed. Ten people were wounded, the number was not higher because it was during the vacation season and the residents of many homes were not in the city. Other nearby homes and business establishments suffered damages, especially the windows.

An Unprecedented Event

The narcoterrorism attack in which a car bomb was used in Colombia for the first time had such an impact that the El Colombiano newspaper headlined the front page with a phrase from the statement by Mayor William Jaramillo: Medellín woke up like Beirut. At the time, international news was the only reference that existed about this kind of terrorist attack.

The Mónaco Building after the Attack

  • 1989
  • 1993
  • 1997
  • 1999
  • 2000
  • 2008
  • 2017
  • 2019
  • 1989


    The National Narcotics Department (DNE, for the Spanish original) seized the Mónaco Building.
    The Christian Association of Support and Rehabilitation (ASOCAR, for the Spanish original) started to use the building.

  • 1993


    The DNE rented it to prepaid private medical insurance, banana and publicity companies, a shipping company and teams of lawyers.

  • 1997


    The property was transferred to Empresa Social del Estado Carisma, responsible for the treatment and prevention of mental illnesses and the rehabilitation of drug addicts.

  • 1999


    Installation of the Office of the Attorney General of Colombia.

  • 2000


    New attack against the Mónaco Building. An armed group shot and detonated 40 kg of dynamite against the Office of the Attorney General.

  • 2008


    The property was handed over to the National Police. The neighbors opposed the installation of a police commando.

  • 2017


    A study hired with the Universidad Nacional concluded that the building was uninhabitable; as well as the looting of the electricity and sanitary networks, it did not meet current standards.

  • 2019


    The Medellín Mayor’s Office received it to implement a historical memory project and bring a new meaning to the place.

Memory of the Horror

The Medellín Mayor’s Office opened an international call for proposals to make the site of the Mónaco Building a place for memory and reflection on the narcoterrorism events that occurred between 1983 and 1994.

A memorial park will be built in its place called “Inflexión” (Inflection), which will pay tribute to the victims of this violent era. With this intervention, those who arrive following the footsteps of Escobar in defense of his criminal action and the same residents of the city will find a symbol of what was an era of pain and terror.

Other Attacks on Escobar’s Properties

As well as the Mónaco Building, country houses, homes, buildings and the Cama Suelta nightclub were attacked with explosives. The most significant in terms of their scale and impact were:

Dallas Building: On April 20, 1993, the Pepes (Persecuted by Pablo Escobar) detonated 100 kg of dynamite in the 15-floor building located on Avenida El Poblado with the aim to destroy it because they believed that Pablo Escobar or his mother lived there. The property, which was confiscated in 1989, did not suffer major damage. However, the Nova Tempo Building located opposite was affected. Currently, Hotel Viaggio operates on the site after the Colombian state auctioned it.

Ovni Building: A bomb exploded in the building located on Calle 10 in El Poblado on May 24, 1990, affecting nearby businesses and homes.


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