Popeye, Pablo Escobar’s top hitman who confessed to killing hundreds, dies from stomach cancer
Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vásquez, popularly known as "Popeye", was hospitalized on New Year’s Eve for esophageal cancer, which had metastasized to his stomach
Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s top hitman, Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vásquez — popularly known as "Popeye" — has passed away. Vásquez reportedly died early morning on Thursday, February 6, at the National Cancer Institute in Bogotá. The 54-year-old had been battling esophageal cancer.
Vásquez was hospitalized on New Year’s Eve for esophageal cancer, which had metastasized to his stomach, according to Colombian outlet La FM, which cited a statement from the country’s National Penitentiary and Prison Institute. The hitman had served a prison sentence of 23 years in the past after confessing to killing at least 300 people. He was released in 2014, however, he was captured again in May 2018 when he continued a life of crime and extortion through the Medellín cartel.
His condition deteriorated in prison and once authorities learned about how serious Vásquez's illness was, he was shifted to Bogotá for palliative care, according to El Colombiano.
Vásquez, under the orders of multi-billionaire drug lord Escobar — dubbed “The King of Cocaine,” — committed multiple crimes and was known as the top sicario, a hitman, of Escobar's Medellín Cartel. Among his crimes, the most infamous one is the bombing of Avianca Flight 203 on November 27, 1989. The explosion killed all 107 people on-board and was deemed the deadliest single criminal attack in decades of violence in Colombia. Years later, Vásquez, in an interview with the Daily Beast, suggested that the bomb "was a work of art."
Escobar, believed to have been one of the wealthiest and most influential persons on the planet because of his thriving drug trade, was eventually shot dead by Colombian security forces in 1993. The hitman went on to write a book about his former boss, titled 'Surviving Pablo Escobar: ‘Popeye’ The Hitman 23 Years and 3 Months in Prison.' The book was published in 2005, he also has a YouTube channel, POPEYE_Arrepentido, with over 1.2 million subscribers.
Vásquez, on his website, described himself as just "another person" who learned from his life of crime.
“I am repentant and determined to help build the truth for those who lived the reality of the Medellin of the ’80s and ’90s firsthand,” he wrote. “I wake up daily and with the decision to show the scars that make me what I am but do not define what I will be today and tomorrow."