Rastrojos’ Losses Could Mean Violent Power Struggle in Colombia

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The loss of several top leaders of the Rastrojos has created a dangerous power vacuum within the gang and in their territory, raising the chance of violence, as a report in Semana magazine sets out.

Despite recent captures of top Rastrojos leaders, Colombia’s Semana warns that the violence is not over. Instead, the shifting leadership in the Colombian crime syndicate could create a power vacuum and cause increased violence in the country.

The Rastrojos, once one of Colombia’s most powerful crime syndicates, has faced numerous losses in recent months. On May 8, it was announced that Rastrojos boss Javier Calle Serna, alias “Comba,” (pictured) had cut a deal with US authorities. The following month, Venezuelan authorities captured Diego Perez Henao, alias “Diego Rastrojo,” the founding leader of the criminal group. Adding to the syndicate’s troubles, Colombian police arrested Comba’s alleged successor Edison Pelaez Jaramillo, aka “Mincho,” on July 3.

InSight Crime Analysis

Although Semana identifies some potential heirs to the Rastrojos leadership, the most prominent of which are members with the aliases “Mascota” and “William” who direct the group’s hitmen, it is not clear who will be the syndicate’s next leader.

With no clear leader in place, the Rastrojos risk a territorial war, with rival groups like the Urabeños hoping to take advantage of the power vacuum and expand into Rastrojos territory.

There is also a danger of internal strife within the group. The Colombian syndicate was already struggling before the loss of two of its most important leaders. In recent months, the group had split between the supporters of the Calle Serna brothers and those of “Diego Rastrojo.” It is possible that these divisions could widen, especially as up-and-coming gang members struggle for power.

If the Rastrojos do not manage to find a clear leader soon, or if the gap between the factions widens, the organization could break into splinter groups. The emergence of new, smaller groups battling for territory could drive further violence, as seen in Mexico.

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