HomeNewsAnalysisLast Rastrojos Leader Surrenders to US
ANALYSIS

Last Rastrojos Leader Surrenders to US

COLOMBIA / 5 OCT 2012 BY EDWARD FOX EN

The last known leader of the Rastrojos drug gang, Luis Enrique Calle Serna, has handed himself in to the US, raising the likelihood this once mighty trafficking organization could be seeing its final days.

Calle Serna delivered himself to US authorities in Panama on October 2, and was immediately transferred to a New York jail, reported Semana. He had been negotiating with US authorities for some time — Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed in February that Calle Serna and his brother Javier, alias “Comba,” were seeking to surrender.

According to Colombian National Police, the arrest of kingpin Daniel “El Loco” Barrera on September 18 triggered Luis Enrique’s surrender, as El Loco had been responsible for providing the Rastrojos leader with security in Venezuela, where he was living. The police added that following El Loco’s arrest, Luis Enrique contacted his family in Spain to let them know he would surrender, and informed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the decision through his lawyer.

Comba delivered himself to the US authorities in May. This was followed a month later by the arrest of another top Rastrojos commander, Diego Perez Henao, alias “Diego Rastrojo,” in Venezuela.

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said that Luis Enrique’s surrender was evidence that the pressure applied by security forces leaves drug traffickers with no other option than to turn themselves in.

InSight Crime Analysis

Luis Enrique was the last remaining leader of the Rastrojos – the former armed wing of the Norte del Valle Cartel — and his detention throws the survival of the group into doubt. Even before Diego Rastrojo and Comba fell, there were reports of infighting between the faction commanded by the Calle Sernas, Los Comba, and Diego Rastrojo’s faction, due to disagreement over whether to negotiate a surrender. The loss of Comba and Diego Rastrojo caused more turmoil, as rival gangs, particularly the Urabeños, made incursions into the Rastrojos stronghold of Valle del Cauca province.

Yet another leader was picked off this week, when Jose Leonardo Rodriguez Guevara, alias “Pinky,” was captured in Bogota. He was second-in-command to Jose Leonardo Hortua Blandon, alias “Mascota,” who reportedly took over Diego Rastrojo’s faction after his arrest. If Mascota only controls one faction, he is unlikely to be able to replace the Calle Sernas and Diego Rastrojo.

According to police, the Rastrojos have been losing manpower, with membership down some 20 percent over the last two years to 1,656 fighters, reported El Tiempo. Luis Enrique’s surrender could cause this to dwindle further, as previously loyal fighters defect to other, stronger groups. There have been reports of this already in the fiercely contested Bajo Cauca region in Colombia, where Rastrojos members have gone over to the rival Urabeños.

Luis Enrique’s decision to surrender, along with the fact he was living in Venezuela, points to the difficulty traffickers face in running their operations once their profile gets too high, especially if they are wanted by the United States.

It is also possible that the surrender of the Combas was motivated by threats to their families. Victor Patiño Fomeque, a former member of the Cali Cartel who served a reduced sentence of just over seven years in the United States after collaborating with the DEA, returned to Colombia in 2010 and began waging a war against the Rastrojos. Part of his motive is reportedly the murder of at least 35 members of his family by the Rastrojos, and the Calle Sernas’ relatives would be a likely target for revenge attacks. The brothers’ surrender deal may have involved protection for their families from the United States.

Regardless of what triggered Luis Enrique’s surrender, one thing is certain: his removal from the picture has served to weaken the Rastrojos further, and likely means that this once powerful drug trafficking gang has seen out its last days as a unified force in Colombia’s underworld.

Compartir icon icon icon

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 / 5 JUL 2011

Colombian rebel group the ELN has denied that it is involved in drug trafficking, or that it takes refuge over…

COLOMBIA / 7 MAY 2012

The FARC has announced that captured journalist Romeo Langlois, who is reportedly being held by one of the group's biggest…

COLOMBIA / 3 JAN 2011

With the end of 2010 comes a glut of statistics about rising versus decreasing crime rates across the hemisphere. In…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…