Colombia’s justice minister said that Javier Calle Serna, alias “Comba,” leader of the Rastrojos gang, had not surrendered to US authorities, confirming a report by InSight Crime.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported last week that the drug lord had turned himself in to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which Minister Juan Carlos Esguerra said was “speculation.” The minister spoke to reporters after leaving a meeting with US Attorney General Eric Holder.

Officials from the US Department of Justice told Esguerra that they were “ignorant” of Calle Serna’s alleged surrender, according to the minister.

Following the reports that Calle Serna was in custody, Colombian newspaper El Tiempo said Thursday that two other prominent drug traffickers, Daniel Barrera, alias “El Loco,” and Henry de Jesus Lopez, alias “Mi Sangre,” were also negotiating their surrender to the US.
InSight Crime Analysis

Rumors that Calle Serna and his brother, Luis, are in talks with US justice have been circulating since last year. President Juan Manuel Santos himself confirmed the reports in February.

But, after recent media reports that Javier Calle Serna had surrendered, sources told InSight Crime that he was not yet in US custory. Esguerra also said that he did not know of any “negotiations” between the US and the Rastrojos.

If the Calle Sernas are interested in negotiating a plea bargain with the US, this will likely be a slow, drawn-out process, with little accurate news on the talks leaked to the media. Other prominent drug traffickers who secured more lenient sentences from the US in return for intelligence, including members of the Cali and Medellin Cartels, were typically already in custody before they struck deals with US prosecutors.

It would be more unusual to bargain with high-level criminals like the Calle Sernas as an incentive for them to give themselves up.

The prominence of the Calle Sernas in Colombia’s criminal underworld means that it will not be easy to reach a negotiated settlement quickly. The Rastrojos commanders would likely have to give detailed information on their drug trafficking operations and their business associates, as well as the identities of any collaborators in the security forces or the government. They would also likely have to give up much of their personal wealth and assets.

Colombian and US authoritities are unlikely to grant the Rastrojos leaders lenient terms unless they can secure highly valuable information in return (like the alleged location of Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin Guzman, which the Calle Sernas reportedly may be willing to share).