Ecuador has captured one of the principal leaders of the Rastrojos, in another blow to the fragmented remnants of what was once Colombia's leading drug trafficking organization.
Ecuador's Interior Minister Jose Serrano announced the capture of Jorge Dominguez, alias "Palustre," on his Twitter account (see below). Serrano later announced that Dominguez would be immediately deported.
Officials have yet to release details of the arrest, except that Dominguez was captured in the western port city of Manta, reported El Comercio.
InSight Crime Analysis
Little is known of Dominguez, but he is believed to have previously headed a gang of assassins working for former Rastrojos leaders the Calle Serna brothers, known as "Los Comba."
SEE ALSO: Rastrojos Profile
The most powerful of the brothers, Javier Antonio Calle Serna, turned himself in to US authorities in May 2012, and since then the group has been in disarray. Presumably acting with information provided by Calle Serna, the authorities have effectively dismantled the group's national leadership and also taken out many of its mid-level commanders.
However, the Rastrojos have continued to operate as local factions, particularly in their stronghold and spiritual home of Valle del Cauca, and parts of the Ecuadorean border region, especially the department of Nariño.
Over the last year, the name of Palustre has sounded out as one of the main Rastrojos figures in and around Cali, where the remnants of the group are embroiled in a turf battle with their rivals -- the narco-paramilitaries of the Urabeños. He was even identified in a leaflet distributed by the Urabeños, who warned anyone paying extortion fees to Palustre's gang would be considered a "military objective."
The Rastrojos are also known to have a strong presence in Ecuador, chiefly in the state of Esmeraldas, which borders Nariño. The port city of Manta, where Dominguez was captured, is a departure point for drug shipments leaving Ecuador by sea, so it is possible Dominguez was in the country to oversee operations.
However, it is also possible Dominguez was in Ecuador to escape the heat in Colombia, as was one of the former Rastrojos leaders, Juan Carlos Calle Serna, who in March 2012 was arrested in Quito, Ecuador, where he had lived for the previous three years.