Pablo Escobar's Most Feared Assassin Starts New Career As YouTube Star
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Between 1972 and the death of Pablo Escobar in 1993, the Medellin Cartel was responsible for an estimated 80% of the global cocaine market.
'The King of Cocaine' was making up to $60 million every day and had an estimated net worth of $30 billion at the height of his power, spending a reported $1200 a month on elastic bands alone.
Escobar was in control of Colombia's national crime agency, without which the murders of hundreds of policemen, politicians and rivals would not have happened.
One man who carried out the killings of around 300 people, ordered the murders of thousands more and set up 200 car bombs, was Escobar's most feared enforcer John Jairo Velásquez, known as Popeye.
Despite claiming responsibility for so many deaths, he was only ever convicted for the assassination of Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, subsequently spending 22 years in prison.
In 2014 he was released on parole and has set about desperately trying to right the so many wrongs he's committed in his life.
Having gone into hiding in the mountains, and getting plastic surgery so people wouldn't recognise him, Popeye has now started a YouTube channel called 'Popeye Arrepentido' ('Remorseful Popeye'), in an attempt to say sorry for the distress he caused his victims' families.
However, it seems it has only made things worse.
Popeye has just over 100,000 subscribers on his channel and his new-found celebrity status sees him bring in a modest income - something that has not gone down well at all with his victims' families.
Speaking to The Guardian from Medellin, he said: "It may seem like glorifying crime but it's to attract young people.
"There is a certain degree of morbid curiosity about the killings, especially from young people."
And why wouldn't there be? Colombia has moved so far forward since the days of the cartels, many teenagers won't remember or know a time when drug lords ruled the streets. And though it still goes on, it's not as obviously visible as it used to be.
But Popeye's YouTube channel is a reminder to these kids about what that life used to be like. And, more importantly, how they should never want to enter it.
Dedicating 14 hours a day to answering questions and recording the videos, he still refers to Escobar as 'my boss' but always reminds people that 'everything Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria did was bad'.
He continued: "It's important that new generations don't get fixated on the figure of Pablo Escobar and even less on mine. We should not be a model for anyone. We are bandits."
Despite his honest admissions and willingness to meet those affected face-to-face, many who suffered at the hands of the Medellin Cartel are not taking too kindly to Popeye's message of remorse and forgiveness.
Popeye claimed responsibility for an Avianca flight that was destroyed by a cartel bomb, killing 110 people. Now, the son of one of the murdered men on board that flight says it "is a slap in the face" that he sees himself as an expert and that when he approached Popeye for answers, he was simply told to "talk to his manager".
No one can truly know Velásquez' motives for starting the YouTube channel but his final comment to The Guardian about it says a lot:
"It would be clean money from honest work."
Words by George Pavlou
Images credited to Getty