One of Colombia’s most notorious drug traffickers is set to join in an anti-government march against corruption tomorrow with far-right former President Alvaro Uribe.
John Jairo Velásquez Vásquez, more commonly known as “Popeye,” was a former hitman for infamous Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and his Medellin cartel. Uribe, a staunch critic of President Juan Manuel Santos’ government peace deal with the FARC rebel group, is a key figure in the planned march along with his Democratic Center Party. Other far-right figures, including former Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez, are supporting the demonstration.
During his time working for Escobar, Velasquez is estimated to have killed around 300 people and oversaw countless more murders against rival gang members, journalists, judges, activists, police and paramilitaries.
He was only convicted of one murder, the assassination of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan in 1989, before being released in 2014. Following his release, Velasquez has gained a large social media presence and is a self-described “political activist and defender of human rights.”
Since his days as an assassin, Velasquez has been a vehement opponent of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and had been a strong figure in the country’s “no” movement against the peace deal, seeing the government's pact as a betrayal to the country.
Velasquez even expressed his desire to become a far-right senator, but accepted that he would likely not be accepted because of his criminal background.
In announcing his attendance at Saturday’s march via Twitter, Velasquez claimed that Santos’ government was “full of corruption and the betrayal of the country. The worst government of all.”
“It is key to go out on April 1 to shout corrupt corrupt, thief to thief and traitor to traitor,” he earlier tweeted to his more than 23,000 followers. Velasquez also called Colombia’s Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin “vomit.”
Others, however, including Senator Luis Fernando Velasco Chaves, pointed out the hypocrisy of Velasquez calling out against corruption given that he murdered in cold blood and enjoyed impunity.