John Jairo Velasquez, better known by his nickname “Popeye,” was paroled on Tuesday evening despite protests from relatives of his many alleged victims.
He had spent 22 years behind bars for plotting the murder of a former presidential candidate, Luis Carlos Galan during the campaign for the 1990 presidential election in Colombia.
In a string of interviews, Velasquez figured that he had about an 80% chance of being killed by former rivals after release. With the threat of a revenge killing lurking, he said he was considering relocating abroad and wants to sell to Hollywood the rights to an autobiography he wrote about life alongside Escobar.
Galan, a cartel-fighting politician, was favoured to win Colombia’s highest office during the apex of drug violence that engulfed Colombia two decades ago.
In a bid to fight extradition to the United States, Escobar ordered scores of assassinations — of judges, cabinet ministers, and journalists. He even downed a commercial jetliner because he believed Galan’s political heir, then-president Cesar Gaviria, was aboard.
Velasquez was one of Escobar’s most-trusted lieutenants, joining the capo’s Medellin cocaine cartel before he turned 18.