The supreme leader of Colombia’s most powerful drug gang, the “Rastrojos,” has surrendered, local media reported Monday.
Javier Antonio Calle Serna, alias “Comba,” turned himself over on the island of Aruba, off the coast of Venezuela, the reports said.
According to the media reports, Comba was flown to New York where he was turned over to authorities to face charges of drug trafficking.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, police sources have confirmed the surrender of one of Colombia’s most important drug traffickers.
There were reports last month that the Rastrojos boss had already surrendered to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration after over a year of negotiations, though crime analysis website InSight Crime later published information suggesting the reports were false.
A subsequent article by El Tiempo contradicted both these accounts, claiming sources close to Comba said the cartel leader planned to surrender in May. There are also rumors his brother Luis Enrique, also a Rastrojos leader, plans to hand himself in.
Calle started out as a fighter in the Popular Liberation Army guerrilla group, before becoming an enforcer and hit man for the Norte del Valle Cartel, remnants of which went on to form the Rastrojos.
He oversaw an exponential growth in the organization, expanding out from its traditional Pacific coast hub to operate in a third of 32 Colombian departments
Calle formed links with Mexican drug cartels Sinaloa and The Zetas, who buy Rastrojos’ drugs for resale in the U.S. The Rastrojos also control a major cocaine smuggling route into Venezuela, a bridge for transporting drugs into Europe as well as the U.S.
According to InsightCrime, the Rastrojos work differently from other criminal gangs in that they concentrate on making strategic alliances rather than controlling every part of the distribution chain. To this end they have made agreements with Colombian guerrilla groups including the ELN and the FARC as well as former right-wing paramilitaries.
Along with nine other members of the Rastrojos, all of whom have already been arrested in Colombia, Calle Serna was indicted by the Eastern District of New York in June 2011 on drug trafficking charges.
InSight Crime says, “This tightening net, combined with the inroads that the rival Urabeños are making into Rastrojos turf in [central department] Antioquia, [northern department] Cordoba and along the Pacific Coast, could mean that “Comba” has found himself under pressure, with few other options but to turn himself in.”