What Is A Cartel?

To begin with, when people hear of the word “Cartel”, all that comes to their minds is “cocaine cartels”. A “Cartel” in the normal sense is a group of independent market participants who merge with each other in order to improve their profits and dominate a particular market. Cartels are usually associations in the same sphere of business, and thus an alliance of rivals.  

Cartel behavior includes price-fixing, bid-rigging, and reductions in output. States and countries that pursue economic interests may form cartels such as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Cartels are distinguished from other forms of collusion or anti-competitive organization such as corporate mergers.

Cartels have existed since ancient times. During the European Middle Ages, associations of craftsmen or merchants of the same trade, have been regarded as cartel-like. 

In the late Middle Ages, there existed very well organized sales cartels in the mining industry of like the “1301 salt syndicate” in France and Naples or the “Alaun cartel” of 1470 between the Papal State and Naples. Both unions had common sales organizations for overall production called the Societas Communis Vendicionis (Common Sales Society).

Cartels often practice international price-fixing. When the agreement to control prices is sanctioned by a multilateral treaty or protected by national sovereignty, no antitrust actions may be initiated

In general, cartel agreements are economically unstable in that there is an incentive for members to cheat by selling below or above the cartel’s agreed selling price. Many cartels that attempt to set product prices have failed in the long term. 

Empirical studies of 20th-century cartels have determined that the mean duration of discovered cartels is from 5 to 8 years.

What Is A Cocaine Cartel?

Cocaine cartel is any criminal organization with the intention of managing cocaine trafficking operations. They range from loosely managed agreements among various drug traffickers to formalized commercial organizations.

Drug cartels are no longer actually cartels, but the term stuck and it is now popularly used to refer to any criminal narcotics-related organization. The term was applied when the largest trafficking organizations reached an agreement to coordinate the production and distribution of cocaine.

There are other operating groups within the cocaine cartels. For example, the cocaine producers and suppliers, although not considered in the basic structure, are critical operators of any drug cartel, the financiers and money launderers. In addition, the arms suppliers operate in a completely different circle and are not considered part of the cocainecartel’s logistics.

NB: The value of the cocaine trade lies at $10 billion per year. Colombia’s share of cocaine production is estimated at 43% of global cocaine production.

The Birth Of Cocaine Cartels.

During the 1970s, Colombia’s Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was the main exporter of cocaine and dealt with organized criminal networks all over the world. When law enforcement efforts intensified in South Florida and the Caribbean, the Colombian cocaine organizations formed partnerships with the Mexican-based cocaine traffickers to transport cocaine by land through Mexico into the United States.

This plan was easily accomplished because Mexico had long been a major source of heroin and cannabis, and drug traffickers from Mexico had already established discreet platforms that stood ready to serve the Colombia-based traffickers. 

By the mid-1980s, Mexican cocaine suppliers were well-established and reliable transporters of Colombian cocaine

At first, the Mexican drug traffickers were paid in cash for their transportation services, but in the late 1980s, the Mexican gangs and the Colombian drug traffickerssettled on a payment-in-product arrangement.

Mexican Transporters usually were given 35% to 50% of each cocaine shipment. This arrangement meant that organizations from Mexico became involved in the distribution ofcocaine, as well as the transportation of cocaine.

In recent years, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Gulf Cartel have taken over trafficking cocaine from Colombia to the worldwide markets.

The dominant party PRI ruled Mexico for around 71 years until 2000. During this time, cocainecartels expanded their power and corruption, and anti-drug operations focused mainly on destroying marijuana and opium crops in mountainous regions. 

There were no large-scale high-profile military operations against their core structures in urban areas until the 2000 Mexican election, when the right-wing PAN party gained the presidency and started a crackdown on cocaine and other drug cartels in their own turf.

Despite Colombia having the dubious distinction of being the world-leading producer of cocaine for several, the works of the PAN slowly but surely, diminished the drug produced, to the extent that, in 2010, the country reduced cocaine production by 60%, relative to the peak in 2000.

In that same year, Peruvians surpassed Colombia as the main producer of cocaine in the world. The level of drug-related violence was halved in the last 10 years and dropped below that of countries like Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, and Trinidad, and Tobago, Guatemala, etc.

A Cocaine Warehouse Own By Cocaine cartels

Mafia (La Mafia or La Maña)

Mexican cartels (La Mafia or the mob), La Maña (The bad manners), Narcotraficantes (Narcos) usually refer to several, rival, criminal organizations that are combated by the Mexican government in the Mexican War on Drugs.

A Mafia is a type of organized crime syndicate whose primary activities are protection racketeering, arbitrating disputes between criminals, and brokering, and enforcing illegal agreements and transactions. Mafias are often engaged in activities such as gambling, loan sharking, drug-trafficking, prostitution, and fraud.

The term “Mafia” was originally applied only to the Sicilian Mafia and originates in Sicily, but it has since expanded to encompass other organizations of similar purpose like “The Russian Mafia” or “The Japanese Mafia”. 

The term is applied informally by the press and public the criminal organizations themselves have their own terms. 

The Sicilian and ItalianAmerican Mafia often call their organizations “Cosa Nostra”. The “Japanese Mafia” calls itself “Yakuza”; and “Russian Mafia” often call themselves “Bratva”.

The Six Most Powerful Cocaine Cartels in the World.

The vast majority of stimulant drugs produced by clandestine labs in South America are consumed by Americans. Both illicit and prescription substances but most of these drugs are not made in the United States. 

The five most famous drug cartels are centered in Mexico. Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, AKA “The Godfather” for controlling all drug trafficking in Mexico as well as that along the country’s border with the United States, started it all with the Guadalajara Cartel in the 1980s. 

Along with the Guadalajara Cartel, the Sinoloa Cartel, Tijuana Cartel, Juárez Cartel, and Gulf Cartel are among the largest and most famous drug cartels in the world.

In fact, drug cartels based in Central and South America are responsible for bringing illegal drugs across the border and into the US. These cartels control vast areas of the country and are also responsible for political corruption, assassinations, and kidnappings.

Below is a brief summary of the five most famous and powerful cocaine cartels in the world are outlined below.

1. Guadalajara Cartel.

In The 1980s Guadalajara Cartel was formed by Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, and Rafael Caro Quintero, the Guadalajara Cartel is one of the five most famous drug cartels in history as it was among the first to work with and significantly prosper from the cocaine trade started in Colombia. 

The Formation of the Guadalajara Cartel started when Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, a former federal police officer, started working for drug traffickers brokering corruption of state officials, and his partners in the Cartel, Rafael Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, who previously worked in the Avilés criminal organization, took control of the trafficking routes after Avilés was killed in a shootout with the police.

Though his colleagues were arrested early on, Félix Gallardo was smart enough to privatize the Mexican drug trade by having it run by lesser-known bosses-yet top drug leaders-whom he had to convene at “the plazas,” a house in Acapulco. 

The Guadalajara cartel prospered from the cocaine trade. the first of the Mexican drug trafficking groups to work with the Colombian cocaine mafias.

He was eventually arrested and the Guadalajara Cartel split into two other powerful cocaine cartels, both mentioned below.

2. The Sinaloa Cartel.

A part of the Guadalajara Cartel’s split, the Sinaloa Cartel is led by the most-wanted drug trafficker in Mexico, Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera (El Chapo). With an estimated net worth of $1 billion, Guzmán is extremely powerful and so there is no doubt why the Sinoloa Cartel won a bloody battle against its former partner, the Juarez Cartel

Resulting in possibly as many as 12,000 casualties, the Sinoloa Cartel employed gangs such as the Artist Assassins, Genre Nueva, and Los Mexicles to attack the Juarez Cartel in its attempt to gain control over drug trafficking routes.

The United States government describes the Sinaloa Cartel as one of the largest drug-trafficking organizations in the world. Founded in the late 1980s by “El Chapo”  who was once ranked as one of the world’s richest men. 

The Sinaloa cartel had a fierce reputation for violence and outfought several rival groups. Mexican cartels often clash with one another, but it’s also worth noting that they can form strategic alliances as well.

The Sinaloa Cartel became the biggest supplier of illegal drugs to the US during El Chapo’s reign as leader. They kidnapped, tortured, and slaughtered members of rival cocaine cartels. 

In July 2019, El Chapo was sentenced to life in prison following one of the most high-profile trials in recent US history. Prosecutors said he had trafficked cocaineheroin, and marijuana, and kept a network of dealers, kidnappers, and assassins on his payroll.

3. The Medellin Cartel.

The Medellin Cartel is a Colombian drug criminal organization founded by Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria who was also the wealthiest criminal in history, at one point raking in $2.1 billion in personal income in one year. He was so rich he even had his own zoo, complete with hippos

The Medellin cartel based in Colombia, is one of the leading cocaine-producingterritories, the organization began smuggling emeralds, but as notorious Pablo Escobar took control of the cartel, the focus changed to drugs predominantly cocaineand marijuana, in 1970. 

The Medellin cartel mostly used private planes to traffic cocaine from South America to Florida. The growing addiction to cocaine in the United States in the 1980s made it possible for them to invest in numerous small airplanes, better laboratories, bribes for government, etc

The Medellin Cartel disbanded after the 1990s, when many members either turned themselves in or were killed, including Escobar, who was gunned down by Colombian police.

4. The Gulf Cartel.

The Gulf Cartel maybe one of the oldest drug Cartels in Mexico dating back to the 1930s, it is based in Matamoros, Tamaulipas. With an international network, the Gulf Cartel serves more than just the drug trafficking scene.

By the 1990s, the Gulf Cartel’s drug trafficking operation was bringing in billions of dollars every year. It maintained this network by engaging in political corruption and bribery as a means to keep officials on their side.

They have been involved in assassinations and kidnappings worldwide and are known for their extreme widespread violence. Their most prominent period was in the late 1990s when it hired a private army, now known as Los Zetas. 

When the pair’s partnership dissolved in 2010, ending in a chaotic battle, the result was several ghost towns. The leaders of the Gulf Cartel including Mario Alberto Cardenas Guillen, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, and Antonio Cardenas Guillen were recently captured but the group’s smuggling routes into the States remain intact.

The main leader of the Gulf Cartel (Osiel Cardenas Guillen) was extradited to the United States in 2007 and sent to prison for 25 years in 2013, hitmen murdered him outside of his home. The cartel then divided into multiple groups with different leaders. 

5. The Los Zetas Cartel.

The Los Zetas Cartel was created in 1997 as a band of 31 former Mexican Special Forces operatives who deserted the military and joined the Gulf Cartel as their private militia. The Zetas have since grown into their own, separate organization, which not only traffics drugs, but also polices cities and towns, assassinates rivals, and launders money. 

The DEA described the Los Zetas Cartel as extremely technologically advanced and trained in paramilitary techniques. They are more violent even compared to other cocaine cartels. Since they struck out in 2002 after Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the original leader of the Gulf Cartel was arrested and sent to the United States.

In 2012, the Los Zetas cartel had reached the peak of their powers. They were named as the country’s biggest drug cartel, overtaking their bitter rivals the Sinaloa cartel, and were thought to operate in more than half of the Mexican states. 

They moved tonsofcocaineheroinand other narcotics. They turned their hand to any crime that brought them money, from cigarette smuggling to human trafficking. Later in 2012, one of their leaders was killed in a shootout with the Mexican Navy. 

He was replaced by Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales whose younger brother, Omar Treviño Morales later took over but was also caught in 2015. This lack of leadership and order caused the Los Zetas cartel to splinter and allowed rival groups to assert dominance and out ruled them.

They lost ground as other groups like the Jalisco cartel expanded to take their east coast territory. 

6. The Juárez Cartel.

The Juarez cartel is one of the few cartels with a large reputation powerful enough to truly rival the Sinaloa Cartel. This cocaine cartel is responsible for smuggling tons of narcotics into the U.S since the 1980s. 

The Juarez cartel is also an old criminal organization, based on drug trafficking and also trafficking humans, kidnapping, and moving drugs between provinces. 

The original leader of the Juarez cartel, Carrillo Fuentes, died in 1997 while undergoing extensive plastic surgery to change his appearance and escape assassins. Other leaders were repeatedly assassinated leading to an escalating war between Juarez and other drug cartels as from 2004, which has since devastated Mexico

Despite being involved in a bloody feud since 2007 with the Sinaloa Cartel, its former partner, for control over drug trafficking routes to Juárez, the Juárez Cartel still controls the three main drug entry points into El Paso, Texas

The Juarez Cartel works with 2 gangs (La Linea and the Barrio Azteca) to power one of the primary illegal drug shipment transportation routes into America. 

Despite its casualties resulting from the battle with the Sinaloa Cartel, the Juárez Cartel continues to be feared, especially for the way it decapitates its rivals and then mutilates and publically discards of their corpses.

With strong leaders backed by an internal criminal network of the world’s most violent leaders, the Guadalajara Cartel, Sinoloa Cartel, Medellin Cartel, Los Zetas Cartel, Juárez Cartel, and Gulf Cartel remain and will be known for a long time as five of the most famous drug cartels in the world.

Gray Steel Containers Used In Making Cocaine
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