Escobar Cohort: Castro And Garcia Marquez Colluded In Drug Trade

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.

John Jairo Velasquez Vásquez during the interview
John Jairo Velasquez Vásquez during the interview

BUENOS AIRES â€" 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 â€" Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vásquez, known as "Popeye" â€" 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."

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Iran To Offer Master's And PhD In Morality Enforcement

For those aiming to serve the Islamic Republic of Iran as experts to train the public morality agents, there are now courses to obtain the "proper" training.

Properly dressed in the holy city of Qom.

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

A woman in Tehran walks past a mural of an Iranian flag

The traffic police chief recently said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes

Rouzbeh Fouladi/ZUMA

New academic discipline

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!