In a signal of the growing power of Colombia’s drug-trafficking criminal bands, or BACRIMs, the Miami Attorney General’s Office has created a new prosecution unit dedicated to investigating groups like the Rastrojos.
The unit is the first of its kind in the United States, and will be run by the Miami Attorney General’s Office along with the agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a February 9 press release.
The announcement came alongside the indictment (pdf) of Diego Perez Henao, alias ‘Diego Rastrojo,’ on cocaine trafficking charges by a Miami federal grand jury. Perez is the military commander of the Rastrojos, once the armed wing of the now dismantled Norte del Valle Cartel. He remains at large.
The indictment will raise the pressure on Perez, as he may now face extradition and a lengthy prison sentence in the U.S., if arrested. Increased attention from U.S. authorities inhibits the ability of drug traffickers like Perez to operate under the radar, and also gives rivals greater incentive to actively persecute him. Eight other alleged members of the Rastrojos have previously been indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida.
Luis Enrique Calle Serna, alias ‘Comba,’ thought to be the top commander of the Rastrojos, does not appear to have a U.S. indictment against him, although the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control blacklisted him for drug trafficking in November 2005.