Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vásquez, known as "Popeye," was the hitman-of-choice for the legendary drug kingpin. He's out of jail now, and telling his side of the story.
BUENOS AIRES — A former henchman of the late Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar has been making some choice revelations to Argentine television channel Telenoche about the blood-soaked empire of cocaine.
For a while in the 1980s, Escobar became the world's most notorious drug trafficker. And his former collaborator — Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vásquez, known as "Popeye" — is no comic or clown. He was among the drug trade's most feared gunmen, believed to have killed more than 300 people, for which he has served 23 years in jail before being released last year.
In an interview with the television station, he accused Raul and Fidel Castro in Cuba, as well as the late Colombian novelist and Nobel prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, of collusion with international drug trafficking.
"Raul Castro would receive cocaine from Pablo Escobar, and Fidel Castro knew about it," he told journalist Ricardo Canaletti. "The drugs would go to Key West in southern Florida."
When Canaletti suggested that it would be difficult to believe a criminal's allegations against "one of the world's leaders," Popeye responded, "I was in Key West. I saw the drugs." He added that "10,000 kilograms of drugs were buried" in Cuba when U.S. authorities intercepted the Florida dispatches.
"Call me a bandit if you want," Popeye said. "I don't mind. But I'll tell you more. Pablo Escobar would send me to Mexico City to find the Nobel Prize winner García Márquez. Yes, you heard right. I handed him a letter from Escobar" meant to be given to the Castros.
Escobar, he said, "was asking Fidel for a Russian submarine to take the drugs from Mexico to Havana ... and Miami."
Popeye also managed to insult Argentina during the interview, telling Canaletti, "Look at your own country. Every day it's looking more like Colombia."