Colombian drug boss turns himself in to U.S. officials

BOGOTA Thu Oct 4, 2012 10:28pm EDT

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BOGOTA (Reuters) - Suspected Colombian drug trafficker Luis Enrique Calle has surrendered to U.S. drug enforcement officials in Panama, Colombia's defense minister said on Thursday.

"These criminals have no option. The pressure by the security forces leaves them no room and that's why they end up handing themselves in," Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon told a press conference in Bogota.

Calle, 36, is considered the leader of "Los Rastrojos" (The Leftovers), a violent criminal network that controls some smuggling routes and sends several metric tons of cocaine to the United States annually.

High-ranking Colombian police officials said several drug traffickers in the Andean country are in talks to turn themselves in to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents. The DEA is offering lighter jail sentences in the United States if the traffickers provide officials information about other drug kingpins and their smuggling routes.

Luis Enrique is the third Calle brother arrested this year for drug trafficking. The U.S. government was offering $2.7 million for his capture.

Javier Antonio Calle surrendered to DEA agents in Aruba in May. His brother Juan Carlos was arrested in Ecuador in March.

As leaders of the Rastrojos, the brothers gained control of critical routes along Colombia's Pacific coast and cemented ties with Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel.

Aided by billions of dollars in U.S. aid, Colombia, one of the world's biggest cocaine exporters, has made strides in recent years against Marxist guerrillas and paramilitary groups that finance themselves with drug sales.

(Reporting By Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing By Eduardo Garcia; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

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