CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuelan authorities on Wednesday
deported an alleged Colombian drug lord who is accused of smuggling cocaine to the U.S. and running Colombia's biggest right-wing criminal gang.
Diego Perez Henao was turned over to Colombian authorities along
with seven other Colombians, Venezuelan Justice Minister Tareck El
Aissami said as the suspects were deported at Caracas'
Perez, 41, was captured by Venezuelan soldiers on June 3 in the
southwestern Venezuelan state of Barinas. El Aissami thanked
Colombian authorities for supporting the operation that led to
Better known by his alias "Diego Rastrojo," Perez was indicted
in 2011 in Florida on charges of conspiracy to traffic cocaine. The
U.S. State Department had offered a $5 million reward for his
Colombian officials have called him the leader of the
"Rastrojos," or "Leftovers," a violent offshoot of the Norte
del Valle cartel that engages in drug trafficking, extortion and
murder as it competes with other criminal bands that grew out of
the far-right militias known as paramilitaries.
At the time of Perez's capture, Colombian President Juan Manuel
Santos called it one of the biggest recent blows against drug
Colombian police have said Perez was pretending to be foreman of
a rice farm in Venezuela's border state of Barinas, living with 10
bodyguards who posed as his workers.
Perez is a suspect in 66 homicides in Colombia as well other
crimes including kidnappings for extortion.
He was a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia,
Latin America's largest leftist rebel band, when the Norte del
Valle cartel recruited him in the 1990s. Such shifts in ideological
allegiance occur periodically in Colombia's drug-fueled conflict,
often driven by money.
Perez became a lieutenant of Wilber Varela, a former Colombian
police officer and one of that cartel's last remaining bosses.
Colombian police have said that Perez and another top leader of Los
Rastrojos are believed responsible for the 2008 killing of Varela
in the western Venezuelan city of Merida.