BOGOTA (Reuters) - A Colombian suspected of running a violent cocaine cartel, one of the country's most-wanted men, has surrendered to U.S. drug officials and could get a lighter sentence if he helps authorities fight drug trafficking, Colombian police said on Monday.
Javier Antonio Calle, for whom the U.S. government was offering a $5-million reward, turned himself in to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on the Caribbean island of Aruba and was flown to New York on Friday, authorities said.
"As a result of ... the National Government's efforts to track down all drug traffickers, in the past few hours Javier Antonio Calle turned himself in," said Jose Roberto Leon, deputy director of Colombia's police force.
Calle, 43, is considered the kingpin of "Los Rastrojos" (The Stubbles), a violent criminal network that controls some key smuggling routes and is believed responsible for sending several tonnes of cocaine every year into the United States.
According to high-ranking Colombian police authorities, several drug traffickers in the Andean country are in talks to hand themselves in to the DEA, which is offering them lighter jail sentences in the United States if they give tip-offs on other drug traffickers and their smuggling routes.
The killing of Wilber Alirio Varela, alias "Jabon" (Soap), a rival cocaine trafficker, allowed Javier Antonio Calle and his brother Luis Enrique, to gain control of some key routes in the Colombian Pacific coast and cement ties with Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel.
Javier Antonio is still at large, but their brother, Juan Carlos, was arrested in Ecuador in March.
Aided by billions of dollar 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.
Some of them have strong ties with Mexican drug cartels.
(Reporting By Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Eduardo Garcia, Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Cynthia Osterman)