17 members of neo paramilitary group Los Rastrojos have been arrested, including regional leader “Picante”, local media reported Thursday.
According to news website CM&, Picante was responsible for 30 homicides in Buga, Tulua and other municipalities in the Valle del Cauca department, south west Colombia. Police claim that he frequently ordered the torture of his victims.
Director of Police General Rodolfo Palomino claimed that at the time of the operation, Picante used his mother as a shield in an attempt to avoid arrest.
“His cowardice was evident to seek refuge in attempt to avoid police,” said Palomino, before suggesting that “we have the full dismantling of this criminal structure.”
Unlike the majority of other major Colombian drug trafficking organizations, Los Rastrojos was not formed from the demobilized paramilitary organization AUC, but has its origins in the now-extinct Cali and the Norte del Valle cartels.
The organization suffered a series of major setbacks in 2012; in May last year, “El Doctor” surrendered to U.S. authorities and a month later, founder “Diego Rastrojo” was arrested in Venezuela. In September, one of their key allies, “El Loco Barrera” was also arrested inside Venezuelan territory. Only weeks later, “Comba” also gave up and surrendered to the DEA in Panama.