The US government has placed sanctions on Colombian drug gang the Rastrojos, including one of its top leaders who was captured last year, suggesting the United States is preparing to target the weakened group’s financial assets.
The US Treasury Department designated Diego Perez Henao, alias "Diego Rastrojo," along with his Rastrojos organization, as "Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers" under the terms of the Kingpin Act. As a result, US citizens are banned from conducting business with its members, and any of the group's assets under US jurisdiction will be frozen.
The Rastrojos, which emerged from the ranks of the now defunct Norte del Valle cartel, have been among the main players in the Colombian underworld for several years. Until his capture in Venezuela last year, Diego Rastrojo was the group's military chief.
According to the Treasury’s press release: Diego Rastrojo was "the main source of supply for numerous multi-ton loads of cocaine smuggled into the US, owning and coordinating airborne and maritime cocaine shipments destined for the US through Venezuela to Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico."
The Rastrojos' two other main leaders, Javier Antonio Calle Serna, alias "Comba," and his brother Luis Enrique Calle Serna, both surrendered to US authorities last year.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Rastrojos emerged as an independent drug trafficking group during the protracted break-up of the Norte del Valle Cartel in the period 2007-2009, and became one of Colombia’s most powerful drug trafficking organizations.
In some ways it is surprising the Treasury is only acting now, when the group is in disarray, lacking centralized leadership and fending off attacks from rivals the Urabeños. However, it is possible the Treasury designation is based on information offered by the Calle Serna brothers since their surrender.
If so, this could be a sign the Rastrojos will soon face a legal attack on its remaining leadership figures and financial assets, an assault that the already weakened and fracturing group is ill-equipped to withstand.