The Colombian police have arrested Erick Prieto Mora, alias ‘Medina’ and ‘Pipón,’ the head of the Los Rastrojos [The Stubble] drug-trafficking gang in the department of Antioquia (in northwestern Colombia) and accused of numerous massacres and murders, the police confirmed on June 17.
“In effect, this individual was arrested as part of Operation Achilles in the municipality of Santuario. In addition, he has been identified as the top-ranking leader of Los Rastrojos in this department and several nearby regions,” a police spokesperson told AFP.
Prieto Mora was arrested on a road that runs between Medellín, the capital of Antioquia, and Bogotá, while he was travelling in a pickup truck with his wife and son, he added.
The authorities believe him responsible for the deaths of eight people in two municipalities in Antioquia on June 2 and 6 and for the murders of three other people in the same localities in May.
They also accuse him of perpetrating numerous massacres and murders, engaging in extortion, and appropriating lands belonging to rural workers in what is known as the Urabá subregion, an area that includes a dozen municipalities in the neighboring departments of Antioquia, Córdoba, and Chocó (in northwestern Colombia).
According to the Colombian police, Los Rastrojos, like other criminal gangs, called ‘Bacrim’ (an abbreviation of bandas criminales, ‘criminal gangs’) by the Government, is largely made up of former paramilitaries and drug traffickers.
These groups are believed to be the heirs of the United Self-Defense Units of Colombia (AUC, extreme right-wing), which held peace negotiations between 2003 and 2006 with the administration of Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010), who granted them favorable treatment in court in exchange for confessing their crimes and making reparation to victims.
Prieto Mora belonged to the Heroes of the Plains Bloc of the AUC, and following his demobilization, he became the leader of a regional faction of Los Rastrojos.
On June 3, Venezuelan authorities arrested the Colombian Diego Pérez Henao, alias ‘Diego Rastrojo,’ a leader of this criminal gang, in the state of Barinas.
Los Rastrojos, led by the brothers Javier Antonio and Luis Enrique Calle Serna, has ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist guerrilla group, and to the Mexican Sinaloa cartel, according to the Colombian police.