The leader of the decimated Machos, a group once responsible for shipping hundreds of tons of cocaine to the US, has surrendered, while his bitter rivals, the Rastrojos, have become perhaps the most powerful drug trafficking organization in Colombia.
Hilber Nover Urdinola Perea, alias "Don H," turned himself into police in at his mother’s house in what was once the heartland of Macho territory, the municipality of Roldanillo, in the department of Valle del Cauca by the Pacific Coast. With his capture, the Machos, one of the seven recognized new generation narco-paramilitary groups, described by the government as BACRIMs ("bandas criminales" or criminal bands), may disappear, or be taken over by another gang.
Set up by Diego Montoya, alias "Don Diego," the Machos were an armed wing of the Norte Del Valle cartel, formed to fight a rival faction, headed by Wilber Varela, alias "Jabon," who set up in 2002 his own private army, the Rastrojos. The capture of Montoya by the Colombian military in September 2007 (he was extradited to the U.S. in December 2008) and the murder of his rival Varela in Venezuela in January 2008, brought to an end to the Norte Del Valle Cartel. However the war between the Machos and Rastrojos has continued as the new generation of drug traffickers battle it out.
Montoya and the Machos were at one time the most prolific exporters of cocaine to the U.S., believed responsible for shipping $10 billion worth of drugs. Montoya pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and obstruction of justice in the U.S. and was sentenced to 45 years in prison. His faction was quickly decimated with the capture of several key players in the Machos:
Gildardo Rodríguez Sierra, alias "Señor de la camisa roja," the founding commander of the Machos, was arrested in May 2008.
Jorge Ivan Urdinola Perea, alias 'La Iguana', the brother of the recently delivered "Don H," was arrested in June 2008 and extradited to the U.S. in November 2009. Oscar Varela Garcia, alias "Capachivo," was arrested in July 2008 and extradited in March 2010.
While the Machos have become but a shadow of their former selves, with their activity restricted to the northern part of Valle Del Cauca and into Choco, the Rastrojos have moved from strength to strength. Varela was killed by his deputy, Luis Enrique Calle Serna, alias "Comba," who took over control of his organization, and expanded it away from its traditional base along the Pacific Coast, all the way across the country. Working with his brother Javier Antonio Calle Serna, alias "El Doctor," and the founding military head of the Rastrojos, Diego Perez Henao, alias "Diego Rastrojo," the group now has presence in more than 12 of Colombia’s 32 departments.
The remnants of the Machos may have already turned to the Rastrojos sworn enemy, the Urabeños, for support. The Urabeños are looking to gain footholds along the Pacific Coast, even as the Rastrojos have sent hundreds of armed man to open up routes in the Urabeños stronghold along the Caribbean Coast.
It seems likely that the Urabeños will scoop up the remnants of the Machos, those that have not defected to the Rastrojos, and use them to force open territory and routes in Valle Del Cauca, linking up with Urabeños units in Choco.
The Machos may be a spent force, but the war with the Rastrojos, which has cost hundreds, if not thousands of lives, looks set to continue.