In this article, we will delve into the life and crimes of Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vásquez, better known as Popeye. He was born on April 15, 1962, in Yarumal, Antioquia, and played a significant role as a hitman for the infamous Medellín Cartel, serving as Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria’s right-hand man.
Early Life and Military Service
Before reaching adulthood, Popeye enlisted in the Colombian National Army and even trained in manicure and pedicure. He later joined the Navy Sub-Officers School but quickly left to become a cadet at the General Santander Police Academy. Although his stint in the police lasted only six months, his affinity for firearms became evident during his time in the army, leading him to switch sides.
The Fortuitous Meeting with Pablo Escobar
Popeye first crossed paths with Pablo Escobar through a friend who was hired to work at Hacienda Nápoles. Little did he know that this encounter would mark the beginning of his ruthless and blood-soaked journey. On that fateful day, Escobar offered Popeye a job, thus kickstarting his career as the infamous drug lord’s driver and bodyguard.
Rising through the Ranks
Elsy Sofía, a woman from the El Poblado neighborhood who was Escobar’s girlfriend, became Popeye’s initial charge. He swiftly gained the trust of the most notorious narco of that time, eventually becoming the leader of the Medellín Cartel. Popeye idolized Escobar, considering him a deity. In fact, he even murdered the woman whom he claimed was the love of his life out of loyalty to his boss.
Seeking Revenge: Wendy Chavarriaga’s Betrayal
Wendy Chavarriaga, one of Escobar’s mistresses, suffered greatly under his controlling reign. The capo would force any woman pregnant with his child to undergo an abortion, regardless of their wishes. Enraged, Chavarriaga vowed to seek revenge and enlisted Popeye’s help. She manipulated him, pretending to be in love, and gathered information to bring down Escobar. However, despite Popeye’s alleged affection for her, he chose to kill Chavarriaga rather than betray his boss.
A Life of Crime
Popeye had an extensive criminal record, with several heinous acts etched in his past. He participated in the kidnapping of Andrés Pastrana, planted a bomb on an Avianca plane with the intent to kill Cesar Gaviria, and was involved in the assassination of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán. Popeye’s brutal nature led him to lose count of the number of crimes he had committed.
Imprisonment and Continued Criminal Activities
In 1992, Popeye received a prison sentence for terrorism, drug trafficking, conspiracy to commit terrorism, and homicide. He was involved in armed clashes at La Modelo prison in 2000 and 2001. In 2008, he was sentenced to 23 years and 3 months for additional criminal charges.
Release and Return to Prison
In 2014, Popeye was granted parole after serving 60% of his sentence. However, he was later sent back to prison for engaging in new extortion crimes. At this point, the former hitman was already battling terminal cancer with metastases in various parts of his body.
The End of a Criminal’s Journey
On February 6, 2020, Popeye breathed his last breath at the National Cancer Institute in Bogotá, succumbing to esophageal cancer.