The executives behind Escobar Inc., a company they say has the rights to the name and story of Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar, are calling for a boycott of the hit Netflix show Narcos, after a location manager for the program was fatally shot in Mexico last week.
The firm includes the trafficker's brother, Roberto de Jesús Escobar Gaviria, who also has asked the show to cease production. Escobar Inc. has for more than a year sought $1 billion from Netflix for using the family's name and story, and the company has issued threatening remarks against Netflix and the program's producers this week.
“It’s not safe to film shows about druglords,” the firm's CEO, Olof K. Gustafsson, said in a statement, ” — unless you pay them.”
“They think they can boss people around and not pay,” Escobar's brother, the firm's chief brand officer, said in the same statement. “People should boycott their show. Their negligence makes people die for nothing.”
The brother, better known as Roberto Escobar, wrote a book, The Accountant’s Story, about his life as the hitmen's supervisor and bookkeeper for Pablo Escobar's Medellín cartel.
Escobar Inc. previously talked tough about the streaming network and its use of the Escobar story. After earning what some have estimated to be billions of dollars growing and shipping drugs, Escobar was fatally shot by Colombian agents in 1993.
“Maybe they thought it was OK to make a show about the No. 1 druglord in the world,” Gustafsson told us in July 2016. “Roberto was an accountant for the enterprise and head of the hitmen. You're going up against these guys? That's not very smart. Nobody wants to go up against these forces.”
This time around, the firm made it sound as if the mysterious death of Carlos Muñoz Portal outside of Mexico City was karmic, to say the least. “People don't die for no reason,” Gustafsson said in a phone interview.
In negotiations over the rights to the Escobar name and story, Gustafsson says, “We've been instructed to go in strong with the big gloves here.”
“We don't want anybody to die over stupid things like this,” Daniel D. Reitberg, Escobar Inc.'s chief operating officer, added during our interview. “Netflix is letting people die for no reason.”
We reached out to Netflix but the service did not respond.
Muñoz was reported to be a veteran location scout who had worked on Tony Scott's Man on Fire and Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. He was said to have been scouting for Narcos' fourth season, which takes the story to Mexico and its Juarez cartel.
“Colombian guys are nice guys,” Gustafsson says, “but the Mexicans don't have time for it.”
Reitberg said if Netflix settles Escobar Inc.'s claim, it would pay for Muñoz's memorial services. Additionally, he says, “We want Netflix to start a foundation in his name to honor him eternally.”