Calle Serna began his criminal career as a fighter for the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) in the southern department of Putumayo. When the rebel group demobilized in 1991 as part of the peace process, he moved northward to the city of Cali, in Valle del Cauca. There he established himself as an assassin and enforcer, and worked for several different drug traffickers, coming to the attention of Wilber Varela, then a leader of the Norte del Valle Cartel.
Over time Calle Serna gained Varela’s trust, and eventually became his top assistant, running much of the financial network and international contacts for the cartel. While working with the Norte del Valle organization, Javier became acquainted with Diego Perez Henao, alias “Diego Rastrojo,” with whom he developed a close relationship. This relationship has lasted through the present day, with Henao managing the rural security structure for the Rastrojos up until his capture in June 2012.
In 2011, rumors surfaced that Javier and his brother Luis, also a Rastrojos leader, were on the verge of handing themselves over to U.S. authorities. Along with nine other members of the Rastrojos (all of whom have already been arrested in Colombia), Calle Serna was indicted by the Eastern District of New York in June 2011 on drug trafficking charges.
This tightening net, combined with the inroads that the rival Urabeños are making into Rastrojos turf in Antioquia, Cordoba and along the Pacific Coast, meant that Comba found himself increasingly under pressure. President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed in early 2012 that Javier Calle Serna was in talks with US authorities about turning himself in. His brother, Juan Carlos, was arrested in Ecuador in March 2012, another sign that the ring was tightening around the Calle Sernas. Rumours of Comba's surrender intensified during the first half of 2012, before he finally turned himself in to US authorities and was shipped to New York on May 8, 2012.
But even with Javier Calle Serna out of the picture, the Rastrojos remain well-positioned in Colombia. Not only are they the dominant criminal gang along the Colombia-Venezuela border, but they are thought to control several international drug trafficking routes leading out of Ecuador. Additionally, in 2012 the group still had a solid alliance with the ELN in parts of southwest Colombia.
- “International Narcotics Control Strategy Report - 2009,” U.S. Department of State (March 2010).
- "Treasury Sanctions Colombian Trafficker," U.S. Treasury Department, 14 January 2010.