HomeColombiaDiego Perez Henao, alias 'Diego Rastrojo'
COLOMBIA

Diego Perez Henao, alias 'Diego Rastrojo'

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / LATEST UPDATE 2016-11-07 22:02:10 EN

Diego Perez Henao, alias "Diego Rastrojo," was the military head of the Rastrojos, a criminal syndicate whose reach stretches across Colombia, and into Ecuador and Venezuela. He was captured in Venezuela in June 2012, extradited to the US in August 2013, and handed a 30 year sentence by a US federal court one year later.

History

A longtime hit man who rose through the ranks of the Norte del Valle Cartel (NDVC), Perez specialized in collecting coca in rural areas and setting up laboratories to turn it into cocaine. He soon caught the attention of Wilber Varela, one of the leaders of the NDVC. When Varela began a war with a rival member of the NDVC, Diego Montoya, alias "Don Diego," he turned to Perez to set up a private army and named it after his underworld alias, "Rastrojo." In 2002 the Rastrojos were born and Perez led the war against Montoya's private army, called the "Machos," a war which he ended up winning.

The other rising star in Varela's organization was Javier Calle Serna, alias "Comba." Perez supported Comba when he killed Varela in 2008 and took command of the whole organization, which then became known to all as the Rastrojos.

Diego Rastrojo Factbox

DOB: April 7, 1971

Group:  Rastrojos

Criminal Activities: Drug trafficking, homicide

Status: Sentenced by US court

Area of Operation: Primarily Colombia's Pacific coastal region

Perez was instrumental in the expansion of the Rastrojos from 2008 onwards, sending out heavily armed cells to different parts of the country, in order to secure access to drug crops, protect cocaine laboratories and control internal movement corridors within Colombia. Until recently, the Rastrojos were one of Colombia's most powerful drug trafficking organizations.

Rumors surfaced of Perez' arrest in January 2011 in Venezuela, but they quickly proved false. He always maintained a very low profile, and very little was known about him. He was believed to be continuously on the move, both inside and outside of Colombia. He maintained direct command over many of the different Rastrojos units across the country, and took a direct hand in fighting, and eliminating, rivals.

With the surrender of Comba to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on May 8, 2012, Perez was the favorite to assume overall command of the Rastrojos until his capture that June in Venezuela and subsequent extradition to the United States on drug trafficking charges.

Criminal Activities

In August 2014, Perez pleaded guilty in a US court to trafficking over 80,000 kilos of cocaine between 1994 and 2008. Colombian authorities have also charged Perez of committing 66 homicides in the southwest department of Valle del Cauca. The US Treasury Deparment designated Perez to its drug "kingpin" list in January 2013. 

Geography

The Rastrojos' initial zone of influence was along the Pacific Coast in the provinces of Cauca and Valle del Cauca. In 2006 they began to expand into Colombia's coffee-growing region as well as the northern department of La Guajira, located along to the Venezuelan border. At one point, the Rastrojos were believed to have a presence in more than 10 of Colombia's 32 departments.

Allies and Enemies

Perez personally negotiated an alliance with rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in the provinces of Cauca and Nariño on the Pacific coast. This later developed into a nationwide alliance in the interests of drug trafficking, with the ELN selling coca base to the Rastrojos in not only Cauca and Nariño, but also Antioquia, Choco, Bolivar and Norte de Santander.

The Rastrojos have also worked closely with international partners, such as the Sinaloa Cartel, sending drug shipments from Colombia to Central America and Mexico, bound for the United States.

The Rastrojos' main rival is the Urabeños. The two criminal groups agreed to a truce in late 2011, but this was short-lived, as the Rastrojos began to fall apart soon after. Violent confrontations between these criminal organizations in the Venezuela-Colombia border region were reported as recently as November 2014.

Prospects

Perez was sentenced to 30 years in prison on August 6, 2014. Perez's capture and sentencing, coupled with the captures and surrenders of the rest of the top leadership in 2012, has likely spelled the end for the Rastrojos as a national criminal organization.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 27 JAN 2012

Colombian authorities have announced the capture of 27 members of drug gang the Rastrojos, who were reportedly working…

COLOMBIA / 11 NOV 2014

The massacre of eight people on a ranch in the outskirts of Cali -- Colombia's third-largest city and the second-most…

COLOMBIA PERSONALITIES / 8 NOV 2019

Henry Castellanos Garzón, alias “Romaña,” was the commander of the 53rd Front of the now-defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Oceans Pillaged in Central America and the Caribbean

5 AUG 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the first installment of a nine-part investigation uncovering the hidden depths of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Latin America. The first installment covered Central America and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela’s Tren de Aragua Becomes Truly Transnational

29 JUL 2022

This week, InSight Crime published a deep dive into the total control that Venezuelan mega-gang, Tren de Aragua, has over the lives of those it smuggles between Venezuela and Chile…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkish Traffickers Delivering Latin American Cocaine to Persian Gulf

15 JUL 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the second half of an investigation piecing together the emerging role of Turkish cocaine traffickers in supplying Russia and the Persian Gulf, which are among…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkey as a Lynchpin in European Cocaine Pipeline

8 JUL 2022

InSight Crime is extending its investigation into the cocaine pipeline to Europe, and tracking the growing connections between Latin American drug traffickers and European criminal organizations. This led us to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Memo Fantasma Coverage Gets Worldwide Attention

1 JUL 2022

Guillermo Acevedo, the former Colombian drug lord and paramilitary commander better known as Memo Fantasma, may soon be allowed to leave prison. Since first revealing the identity of Memo Fantasma…