A brief history of the Rastrojos.
Created by insightcrime on Oct 27, 2010
Last updated: 08/07/12 at 10:07 AM
Tags: InSight Colombia Rastrojos
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On the Venezuelan border, Colombian police seized a Rastrojos weapons cache that included 55 firearms, some of which were reportedly traced back to the Venezuelan military.
Venezuelan authorities captured the founder of the Rastrojos Diego Perez Henao, alias “Diego Rastrojo,” on a farm where he was posing as a foreman.
After months of negotiations with the DEA, Javier Calle Serna, alias 'Comba,' surrendered to US authorities, leaving the Rastrojos with a potential power vacuum.
Juan Carlos Rivera Ruiz, alias "06," former hitman and drug smuggler for the Rastrojos, was extradited to the United States. Rivera put the Calle Serna brothers in power by helping them kill their former boss, Norte del Valle Cartel commander Wilber Varela.
According to pamphlets signed by the Urabeños and distributed in the town of Villa del Rosario, in the northern province of Norte de Santander, the drug trafficking group’s primary objective is to “terminate the Rastrojos.”
According to Colombian authorities, Luis Enrique Calle Serna, one of the brothers leading the Rastrojos, is negotiating his surrender.
Alexis Fernando Velasco Herrera, alleged money launderer for the Rastrojos, was captured in Bogota. At the time of his arrest, Velasco Herrera was found with $140,000.
Colombian police detained Carlos Hugo García García, alias “Chocolate” or “Lucker,” who, according to officials, was responsible for carrying out dozens of assassinations ordered by the Calle Serna brothers.
During raids in the Pacific province of Choco, authorities captured governmental employees suspected of collaborating with the Rastrojos, including seven police officers, two Navy officers, and two investigators for the Colombian attorney general.
At least 20 people died during the week of Feb. 7 in the fight between the FARC and the Rastrojos over control of the Pacific province of Cauca, which is a strategic location for drug traffickers.
Authorities seized 6.4 tons of drugs in Colombia's Pacific port city of Buenaventura, the largest seizure of 2010. Police stated the cocaine is the property of Daniel Barrera, alias 'Loco Barrera,' and his allies the Rastrojos.
Police captured Rastrojos leader Hector Eudoro Rivera Erazo, alias “Caballo,” who was allegedly responsible for coordinating drug-related activities with the FARC and was a confidante of the Calle Serna brothers, the principal leaders of the Rastrojos.
Police captured Ariel Osorio Garcia, alias “Pajaro,” the alleged leader of a Rastrojos’ assassin ring.
Authorities arrested 13 people involved in making precursor chemicals allegedly for Rastrojos cocaine laboratories.
Alleged members of the Rastrojos threw a grenade at a small store in the Pacific Coast city of Tumaco, killing a policeman, a civilian, and injuring 13 others.
Police detain 14 Rastrojos leaders, including Oscar Andres Porras Rosero, alias “Peludo,”who was in charge of the Rastrojos’ finances, in 12 simultaneous raids across three departments.
The Rastrojos, whose stronghold remains in the Valle del Cauca and Nariño provinces, extend into the more northern departments of Antioquia, Bolívar, Santander, and near the coast, where they begin battling two other organizations, the Paisas and the Urabeños, for territory.
The Colombian government puts a price of 5 billion pesos (about US$2.7 million) on Luis Calle Serna's head. For the capture of his associate Diego Pérez Henao, alias 'Diego Rastrojo,' the government offers 3 billion pesos (about US$1.6 million).
Security forces find a semi-submersible off the coast of Mexico, carrying six tons of cocaine. The vessels are increasingly used by drug traffickers, especially the Rastrojos, who launch from the Pacific coast.
Wilber Varela is killed in Merida, city to the southwest of the Venezuelan capitol Caracas. At the time of Varela's death the US was offering a $5 million reward for information about his whereabouts. However, the assassination was most likely planned by his top aide, Luis Enrique Calle Serna.
Diego Montoya, one of the top ten most wanted by the FBI and main rival to Wilber Varela, is arrested in Valle del Cauca. It is a blow to the Norte del Valle Cartel, which had been split into rival, warring factions since 2002. Montoya's arrest also signals the end of his army the Machos, about 600 strong. Some take part in the demobilization process with the government, others defect to work for the Rastrojos, led by Varela's top lieutenant, Luis Enrique Calle Serna, alias 'Comba.'
Rastrojos begin buying coca base from the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN) rebel group in Cauca and Nariño. The move is a shift for both organizations. The ELN rarely trafficked in drugs; the Rastrojos once battled the guerrillas.
The group begins calling itself the Popular Peasant Patrols (RCP). It is an attempt by Varela to employ a paramilitary style group in the countryside, to better rival the paramilitary army that Diego Montoya is trying to create, the United Self-Defense Forces of Valle (AUV). Both drug capos attempt to formalize their armed wings in order to take part in the demobilization process and peace process between the government and paramilitary groups at the time. But the government refuses to allow them in the negotiations.
A reported 80 members of the Machos and 150 members of the Rastrojos engage in a fierce, twelve-hour firefight in the northern part of the department of Valle del Cauca. The battle is over who controls the Garrapatas Valley, a key region filled with coca cultivations that offers easy transit routes to the Pacific. The Rastrojos are later able to assert their control over the region.
Luis Calle Serna, alias 'Comba,' who will later betray his boss and assume control of the Rastrojos, is given responsibility for the group's drug trafficking finances. Varela asks him to travel to Mexico, to establish contacts with the cartels there.
The infighting leads to war within the cartel between the two main factions. Wilber Varela, alias 'Jabón,' creates an armed group, the Rastrojos, to better confront the private army, known as the Machos, working for his rival Diego Montoya.
The Norte del Valle Cartel begins to split at the seams as members make deals with the United States government. The information leads to arrests and rifts within the organization that eventually leads to all out war. The infighting is the source of the famous novel and popular soap opera, "El Cartel de los Sapos."
A group of ex-police and powerful drug traffickers in the northern part of the department of the Valle del Cauca in Colombia form an alliance. While not as well known as its predecessors from Cali and Medellín, the North Valley Cartel, led by men like Diego Montoya (photo), is arguably the more powerful.