Rastrojos Leaders Negotiating With US: Colombia Govt

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed rumors that the leaders of the Rastrojos drug gang are negotiating their surrender with the US.

Santos declared that the leaders, brothers Luis Enrique and Javier Antonio Calle Serna, were negotiating as a result of the continued pressure being exerted on their Rastrojos group by Colombian authorities.

Commenting on Colombia’s collaboration with US authorities, he added, “when we work together and we work against transnational crime, the results are faster and more efficient,” reported El Tiempo.

Santos confirmed that the Rastrojo leaders are in talks with the US after former paramilitary warlord Hector Buitrago, alias “Martin Llanos,” was arrested in Venezuela.

InSight Crime Analysis

Rumors of the Calle Sernas’ dealings with US authorities first surfaced in August last year when Colombian daily El Pais reported that Javier Antonio was negotiating his surrender following a June 2011 indictment by the Eastern District of New York on drug trafficking charges.

A move such as this by a high-profile drug trafficker is not unprecedented. Colombia’s most notorious trafficker, Daniel Barrera Barrera, alias “El Loco,” and the now-captured Maximiliano Bonilla, alias “Valenciano,” both apparently began negotiations with the US, only to break them off later.

The decision to start negotiating with US justice is one sign of an organization under pressure. Once a drug trafficker’s activities have grown to such a point that a US extradition order is issued, it becomes very difficult to operate with the same levels of impunity, as InSight has previously noted.

In the case of the Calle Sernas, however, it is a case of time as to whether their offer of submission is sincere. As evidenced by Barrera and Bonilla, should the terms offered to them not be favorable, they will simply walk away and continue to run their organization. Furthermore, the Rastrojos are currently locked in a fierce battle with the rival Urabeños gang. Last year the Urabeños began making inroads into the Rastrojos’ home turf of Cali, and have had successes in strengthening control of highly-prized trafficking routes out of Medellin to the Caribbean coast. If the Calle Sernas were to remove themselves from the picture, it could potentially weaken the Rastrojos to the point of insignificance and see them overrun by the Urabeños.

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