One of the top leaders of Los Rastrojos, a powerful drug carteloperating near the border between Venezuela and Colombia, has been captured by Venezuelan authorities, the government said.


Diego Perez Enao, also known as Diego Rastrojo, was seized Sunday in the town of Rojas de Barinas following a weeks-long intelligence operation, Venezuelan Interior and Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said.

"It was one of the most important blows that we have delivered to criminal organizations and international narco-traffickers," he said.

According to El Aissami, the Colombian was the third-ranking leader of the cartel and was in charge of major drug trafficking operations.

He has been wanted in Colombia since 2001 in connection with various crimes committed by the group, officials said.

Following the re-establishment of their diplomatic relations in 2010, Venezuela and Colombia have bolstered security along their common border and increased anti-narcotics cooperation.

According to Colombian police, Los Rastrojos, which was led by brothers Javier Antonio and Luis Enrique Calle Serna, maintains close ties with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Latin America's longest-surviving leftist guerrilla group.

But after months of negotiations, Antonio surrendered to the US Drug Enforcement Administration on the Caribbean island of Aruba last month.

"Now the only thing left for Luis Enrique Calle is to surrender to Colombian authorities," said Colombian police commander General Jose Leon Riano.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos congratulated Venezuelan and Colombian investigators on the success of their joint operation.