According to police, Mascota was the heir of alias “Diego Rastrojo,” the organization’s top commander, who was arrested in Venezuela in 2012.
Furthermore, the drug trafficker was considered to be chiefly responsible for a series of gruesome acts in the southwest Colombia town of Tulua, where infighting between Los Rastrojos members was coupled with violent clashes with their neo-paramilitary rival, “Los Urabeños.”
In order to maintain control over Los Rastrojos en Tulua, Mascota is said to have unleashed a wave of violence against rivals, leaving a gruesome trail of decapitated and dismembered victims in his wake. According to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, the drug trafficker was nicknamed “El Mochacabezas, meaning “head hacker,” by the Tulua population.
The alleged Rastrojos commander was first arrested by authorities in 2010, accused of being the head of the organization in the southwestern Cauca department. He was subsequently placed under house arrest by a local court “for reasons of poor health,” arguing bullet wounds in the stomach made him unfit for prison. However, Mascota is believed to have continued in the organization after the arrest. He was re-captured in November 2012 and once again placed under house arrest for health reasons.
The town of Tulua, strategically located along crucial drug trafficking routes, has become one of the most violent cities in Colombia, due to clashes over the control of the drug trade. Currently, two rivalling Rastrojos factions, lead by alias “Picante” and “Porron,” are believed two be fighting each other in the city. Meanwhile, extortion of business owners is said to be on the rise in the city. In the first two months of 2013, 42 people were arrested in Tulua for extortion. Gustavo Rivera, a security expert at the Valle del Cauca governor’s office, told Colombia Reports authorities could not act unless citizens actually denounced the extortions.
“The important thing is that the citizen makes the denunciation and alerts the public force so it can act [but] if we do not know the problem we cannot act…if the denunciation is not made you know that there can be no judicial action,” Rivera said.
Los Rastrojos is one of Colombia’s largest drug trafficking gangs. It was the armed wing of the now-defunct Norte del Valle cartel, but has since 2006 become an independent actor in the national and transnational drug trade. In 2012, Los Rastrojos lost several top commanders. The gang’s main leaders, Javier Calle Serna, alias “Comba,” Diego Perez Henao, alias “Diego Rastrojo,” and Luis Enrique Calle Serna, were either captured or surrendered to US authorities. These arrests left the group fractured and without a clear leader.
Since these arrests, Los Rastrojos is believed to function more as a decentralized network than a united organization.
PROFILE: Los Rastrojos
- Asesinado en Cali alias Mascota, sucesor de Diego Rastrojo (W Radio)
- Sicarios asesinaron a alias ‘Mascota’, heredero de ‘Diego Rastrojo’ (El Tiempo)
- Homicidios y extorsiones siguen azotando a Tuluá, centro del Valle del Cauca (El Pais)
- Interview with Gustavo Rivera at the Valle del Cauca’s governor’s office