John Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, aka Popeye, left, in court with his lawyer after being captured in Medellin, Colombia, on May 25, 2018.

John Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, aka Popeye, left, in court with his lawyer after being captured in Medellin, Colombia, on May 25, 2018. (Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, one of the most notorious hit men for Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar, is dead.

Nickamed "Popeye," a sobriquet he earned during an apprenticeship with the Colombian Navy because of a physical resemblance to the muscular, spinach-eating cartoon character sailor, was a feared member of the Medellin cartel.

Velasquez, who once confessed to 300 assassinations by his own hand and coordinating thousands more, was sentenced to a 30-year prison term for the assassination of Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan Sarmiento in August 1989.

Later that year, Popeye was linked, with Escobar's cartel, to an Avianca plane bombing that killed 110 people - all 107 on board the plane as it traveled from Bogota to the western city of Cali, and three on the ground, the National Post reported.

But he died not in the bullet-riddled way of many hit men but rather by stomach cancer in a Bogota hospital on Thursday. His death was confirmed by Colombia's National Penitentiary and Prison Institute, CBS News reported.

Velasquez was 57. He had been hospitalized since New Year's Eve with esophageal cancer that metastasized to his stomach, the New York Post reported.

In recent years, after his 2014 release from prison, Velasquez became a YouTuber whose channel, Popeye - Arrepentido (Repent), boasts 1.2 million subscribers.

A mea culpa, of sorts, Escobar's right-hand man used social media to push young people to reconsider a life of crime - "it is not worth losing your life in jail," Velasquez said. But his idea of repenting was tangential, at best, el Nuevo Herald reported in a story about his YouTube channel in 2017.

At the same time Velasquez urged others not to follow his path, he spilled Medellin-era secrets, re-enacted his hits and threatened those that challenged him on the channel and in public.

"Yo me describo como un defensor de los derechos humanos, pero no como un bobo," Velasquez said. "I describe myself as a defender of human rights, but not as a fool," he said in a telephone interview with el Nuevo in 2017.

"I will be a murderer all my life. When someone on the street beats me, I go over and (we) face each other. If a nun disrespects me publicly, I grab her and take her to the ground. Just as I respect, I also deserve respect," Velasquez told el Nuevo.

Velasquez apparently couldn't shed his past.

In May 2018, Velasquez was arrested on charges of extortion and criminal conspiracy, InSight Crime reported. Officials say he was blackmailing former associates of the late Escobar who still controlled some of Escobar's assets.

Escobar died in a shootout with Colombian National Police in 1993 at age 44.

While in prison during his initial 30-year sentence, Velasquez wrote a memoir, "Surviving Pablo Escobar: 'Popeye' The Hitman 23 Years and 3 Months in Prison," in 2005.

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