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.
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.
DOB: February 2, 1969
Criminal Activities: Drug trafficking, money laundering, murder
Area of Operation: Colombia’s Pacific coastal region
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.
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 were 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.
Comba is facing charges for drug trafficking, money laundering, and murder in the United States. In June 2011, the US Treasury Department added Comba to its drug “kingpin” list.
Calle Serna began fighting in the southern department of Putomayo with the EPL. He later moved to Cali, where he worked as a member of the NDVC and later a top commander of the Rastrojos, whose main base of operations is in Colombia’s Pacific coastal region.
Allies and Enemies
Calle Serna became a top assistant to his former boss, Wilber Varela, alias “Jabon,” a leader of the NDVC. However the two had a falling out in 2008, and Calle Serna ordered Varela to be killed in Venezuela. Calle Serna maintained a working relationship with fellow Rastrojos leader, Diego Rastrojo, however the two disagreed on whether or not to turn themselves in to authorities. This disagreement created competing factions within the Rastrojos, one led by the Calle Serna brothers and the other by Diego Rastrojo.
It is highly possible Calle Serna will receive a reduced sentence in the United States, since he was quick to hand himself over to authorities in 2012. Calle Serna also reportedly gave up 64 properties in 2014 in return for a lighter sentence for him and his brother, and it is rumored he will receive 15 years behind bars.