Jhon Jairo Velásquez

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Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vásquez (April 15, 1962 – February 6, 2020), also known by the alias "Popeye" or "JJ", was a Colombian hitman[1] who was part of the criminal structure of the Medellín Cartel until his surrender to the Colombian justice system in 1992. Within this structure he claimed to be a lieutenant commanding half of the sicarios.[2]

Jhon Jairo Velásquez
Jhon Jairo Velásquez.png
Velásquez being interviewed in 2014
Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vásquez

(1962-04-15)April 15, 1962
DiedFebruary 6, 2020(2020-02-06) (aged 57)
Other namesJJ, Popeye
AllegianceMedellín Cartel
Conviction(s)Murder, kidnapping and terrorism (charges with conviction fulfilled)
Date apprehended

Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vásquez was born in the municipality of Yarumal, and Antioquia, Colombia.[citation needed] He was admitted to the Colombian National Army; later he joined the cadet school of the national police, only to leave days later, having school of apprentices of the Colombian Navy where he earned his distinctive nickname "Popeye" because of his physical resemblance to the character, which would later be removed by plastic surgery.[3] Velásquez escaped from prison once and was later caught and served the time.[4]


Velásquez entered the School of NCOs of the Colombian Navy, and eventually transferring to the General Santander National Police Academy, where he spent one semester.[4]

Criminal careerEdit

Velásquez was identified as one of the foremost hitmen of the Medellín cartel. He confessed to 257 personal killings, the kidnapping of then-candidate for mayor of Bogotá, Andrés Pastrana Arango (who would later become the President of the Republic), the kidnapping of Francisco Santos (who would later become vice president), kidnapping and murder of Colombian politician Carlos Mauro Hoyos, complicity in the murder of the governor of Antioquia, Antonio Roldán Betancur, in a failed mission entrusted to Velásquez and John Jairo Arias Tascón, alias "Pinina", to kill a police colonel, and the killing of politician and Presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento.[5] He also admitted to arranging over 3,000 killings.[6] He also helped to plant the plane bombing that killed 110 people.[4]

In May 2018 Velásquez was arrested on charges of extortion and criminal conspiracy. It has been claimed that he was blackmailing former associates of Pablo Escobar who were still in control of some of his assets.[7]


From 1992 until 2014, Velásquez served out a prison sentence on charges of terrorism, drug trafficking, extortion, conspiracy for terrorist purposes and murder.[8] He had received a sentence of thirty years, the maximum provided for under Colombian penal law. During 2000 and 2001, Velásquez was involved in armed clashes in La Modelo prison. In 2008, he was sentenced to twelve years for other judicial proceedings against him. On August 22, 2014, he received probation for having served three-fifths of his sentence. At age of 52, he was released on August 26, 2014 after 23 years and 3 months in prison.[9]

In 2018 he returned to prison on extortion charges and a subsequent conviction and in 2020 died while incarcerated.[10]

Personal lifeEdit

Velásquez was once in a relationship with Wendy Chavarriaga Gil, a former lover of his boss Pablo Escobar. They were lying in bed one day when the phone rang and on the other end was Pablo Escobar. Velásquez was then given a choice: "love or death, money or lead (plata o plomo)". He hung up the phone and shot Wendy fatally twice in the forehead, in a fit of rage.[11] In an interview, according to Velásquez, Escobar was clear in his instructions, "you or her, do not hesitate a single second ... plata o plomo, amor o muerte. I'm waiting". In a later interview he said he did not hesitate to kill Wendy when Escobar proved (by intercepting her phone) that she was using Popeye to find Escobar and kill him. Popeye then asked his men to do the job. He fixed the appointment in a bar. She was waiting, Popeye called her, and as soon as she came to answer the phone the men shot her. He said he could hear her high heels coming towards the phone and then the shooting.

Controversy continued to swirl around Velásquez following his release from prison. On December 12, 2016, a video appeared in which Velásquez brandishes and fires a handgun in the streets of Medellín.[12] In the video, Velásquez proudly states, "Hello, warriors, I'm here in the streets of my beloved Medellín, testing out my beautiful 9mm Pietro Beretta. We're firing it, it's a doll, a beauty!"[13]

In December 2016, two men on motorbikes pulled up alongside him as he was driving in his car and robbed him of his glasses, two old bracelets and an old mobile phone, he said. He also said it was the second time he had been targeted in such a way but he had not reported the incidents.[14]

Aside from being a controversial figure, Velásquez was a YouTube personality who uploaded videos. In these videos, he critiqued various topics in Colombia such as a corrupt government and socioeconomic hardships.[15] He was working on a TV series based on his own life and his involvement in the Medellín Cartel, and starred in season 3 of the Netflix series Narcos. Then in 2017 Netflix released a drama series called Surviving Escobar, which is based on the book[16] written by Velásquez. He was featured in the 2018 documentary series premiere of Dark Tourist. Velásquez performs in a 2019 film, X Sicario – Pablo Escobar's Hitman; he played Simon, the most feared hitman who worked for Pablo Escobar. The film tells a story in which Simon resists against the new regulator of the Mafia in Medellín.[17]

After having been admitted to the hospital for a month, on December 23, 2019, Velásquez was transferred for health reasons from the maximum-security prison of Valledupar to La Picota prison in Bogotá.[18] On January 8, 2020, it was announced that Velásquez had terminal esophageal cancer and that he had at most a few months left to live. He died on February 6, 2020 in Bogotá, aged 57.[19][20]

Popular cultureEdit

  • In 2013 TV Series Tres Caínes, is portrayed by Sebastián Boscán as the character of 'Espinaco'.


  1. ^ "El ex jefe de sicarios de Pablo Escobar seguirá en prisión al menos hasta 2016 (Spanish). Murio tras la enfermedad de Cancer Ex-chief of Pablo Escobar's hitmen to be in prison until 2016.". El Mundo. September 16, 2013. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  2. ^ Ramos, Fernando; Romo, Rafael (August 27, 2014). "Colombia frees Escobar man who killed". CNN.com. CNN.
  3. ^ "Kingpin Escobar lives on in heart of top hitman Popeye". Gulf News. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Daniel Rennie. "Meet John Jairo Velasquez — Pablo Escobar's Top Hitman Who Killed Over 250 People". AllThatsInteresting.com. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  5. ^ Declarado Culpable. August 11, 1997
  6. ^ "Pablo Escobar's hitman killed over 3000 people".
  7. ^ US Helps Colombia Arrest Longtime Medellín Underworld Figure 'Popeye'
  8. ^ DONJUAN, Revista. "Popeye: perfil de un sicario que mato a Alexandra más de 250 personas - Historias | Revista DONJUAN". revistadonjuan.com (in Spanish). Archived from the original on August 25, 2012. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  9. ^ 'Popeye', jefe de sicarios de Escobar, saldrá de prisión tras 24 años. August 23, 2014
  10. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/07/world/americas/Jhon-Velasquez-dead.html
  11. ^ "¿Por qué Escobar mandó matar a la novia de 'Popeye'?". La Prensa (in Spanish). September 29, 2017. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  12. ^ "Polémica de "Popeye" al mostrar video donde dispara un arma en calles de Medellín" (in Spanish). Caracol Radio. December 12, 2016. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  13. ^ "Video de Popeye en Instagram disparando arma" (in Spanish). December 12, 2016. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  14. ^ "Pablo Escobar's hired killer 'robbed in Colombia'". BBC News. December 6, 2016.
  15. ^ "POPEYE Arrepentido" (in Spanish). June 8, 2016. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  16. ^ Velásquez, Jhon Jairo (2018) Surviving Pablo Escobar. London: John Blake Publishing. ISBN 9781786068309
  17. ^ "X Sicario - Pablo Escobar's Hitman". Amazon Prime Video. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  18. ^ "Por problemas de salud, alias Popeye fue trasladado a cárcel La Picota" (in Spanish). December 23, 2019. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  19. ^ "Popeye padece cáncer terminal de esófago" (in Spanish). January 8, 2020. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  20. ^ Brito, Christopher (2020) Pablo Escobar's former hitman "Popeye" has died at 57 cbsnews.com

External linksEdit