Pablo Escobar’s hit man Popeye accused of violating parole

(Courtesy: The Associated Press)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombian authorities are seeking to re-arrest a former hit man for late drug lord Pablo Escobar for violating his parole after he was caught partying with a major trafficker wanted by the U.S., prosecutors said Saturday.

Jhon Jairo Velasquez, known by his nickname Popeye, was paroled in 2014 after confessing to hundreds of murders and spending 22 years in jail for plotting the murder of an ex-presidential candidate. Since being released, Velasquez has gained notoriety as an author and YouTube celebrity who delivers angry diatribes against leftist rebels, corrupt politicians and Venezuela’s socialist government.

His presence at a raucous birthday party for Juan Carlos Mesa, one of Colombia’s most-wanted drug traffickers, constituted a “very serious” offense, said the country’s chief prosecutor’s office. The U.S. had been offering a $2 million bounty for Mesa’s capture.

Police raided the party on Friday at a country house near Medellin where they arrested Mesa, alias Tom, who was celebrating his 50th birthday in almost stereotypical narco form: surrounded by armed bodyguards, young women, bountiful alcohol and lots of gambling.

It was unclear what Velasquez was doing at the party. El Tiempo newspaper reported that police seized more than $40,000 in cash, jewelry and seven luxury cars.

Velasquez took advantage of his time behind bars to obtain a number of academic degrees and to seek forgiveness from his victims. He also provided prosecutors with testimony that led to the conviction of a former justice minister close to Escobar.

But even while expressing regret about his crimes, he continued to demonstrate admiration for his former boss.

“If Pablo Escobar were to be reborn I’d go with him without thinking,” he told El Tiempo newspaper in 2013.