A former hitman for Colombian drug overlord Pablo Escobar has told how his honesty and notoriety have given him a new life as a media star.


Assassin John Jair Velasquez Vasquez - nicknamed Popeye by Escobar - was released from jail three years ago after 23 years behind bars for more than 300 killings.


Now the straight-shooting hitman says his frankness and directness have made him more popular in the country than any politician.


He explained in an interview with local media: "Being a celebrity, a celebrity murderer, in the Colombian republic is an honour compared to the politicians we have now.


"I had the biggest professor of crime of the world, Pablo Escobar."


Popeye added: "Every day politicians steal the whole country, and talk in public about corruption. That is why a person like me is respected in the city."


The one-time enforcer has clocked up a bestselling book on his extraordinary career and a series of YouTube documentaries about his life.


He has an army of followers on social media, despite some criticism that he glorifies crime.


Popeye hit back saying that Colombian society is only too keen to suck up to foreign stars like Tom Cruise when they visit the country to make movies there.


He said everybody "knelt in front of him" but "when it is Popeye who does it, then he is criticised."


Popeye describes himself on social media as a "former criminal in search of a new opportunity in society. Political activist and defender of human rights."


His book ‘Popeye the Hitman: 23 years and 3 months in prison' became a bestseller across the country.