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Once again the possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is being dangled before Colombia. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, for themselves and especially for their children, the enemies of the peace negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the peace process are high.


Comba

  • Written by InSight

Javier Antonio Calle Serna, alias “Comba,” was the top leader of the Rastrojos, a group of former paramilitary hitmen turned drug trafficking organization in Colombia. He surrendered to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on May 8, 2012.

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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, alias "Jabon," 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.” The two developed a close and lasting relationship, with Perez managing the rural security structure for the Rastrojos up until his capture in June 2012.

After a conflict broke out between Calle Serna and Varela in January 2008, he had Varela killed in Merida, Venezuela, with the help of Perez and possibly Daniel Barrera, alias "El Loco.” 

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. Rumors 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. 

The Rastrojos have been weakened since the fall of Javier Calle Serna and his brother, as well as the arrest and subsequent extradition to the United States of Perez. However, though their national leadership has been taken out, they continue to operate in smaller, localized cells in their traditional strongholds.

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