Cartels Essay, Research Paper

The drug cartel based in Cali, Colombia, was one of the largest players in the multi-billion dollar worldwide cocaine industry. Although their operations are highly illegal, opposed by both Colombian and US law enforcement agencies, the cartel continues to run a very effective operation. The vast majority of this cocaine is destined for the US market. It reaches the US by numerous routes – by air, by sea, but mostly over land by Mexico. Once the cocaine reaches the United States, Cali has makes use of its distribution network to deliver the drugs wholesale to the retailers, typically ethnic crime gangs. The Cali cartel is similar in its methods with many of the Mexican cartels. Cali and the Mexican cartels are both a threat to the U.S. and most of these groups are no longer operating. The following will show how they are similar to each other, and how these groups controlled their organized business. Cali is primarily in the business of manufacturing, distributing, and wholesaling cocaine for the US market. Its competitive advantage lies in its distribution networks, which can transfer tons of illegal material through actively hostile territory.

This is a brief listing of the strengths and weaknesses of the Cali cartel. Cali’s great strength lies in its distribution network. Finding sufficient numbers of people who are willing to risk their lives and freedom, and who will not cooperate with law enforcement agencies, is the first barrier. A distribution network also requires airstrips, hidden warehouses, and corrupt officials, and these take time and money to develop (Bernards, 1990). Cali’s network is also highly compartmentalized, and proficient at laundering the large quantities of cash it generates. Because of the sheer scale of Cali’s wealth, they can afford to buy ships and aircraft, bribe government officials at the senior level, hire top lawyers, and pay Colombia’s paramilitaries and guerrillas to provide protection (Bernards, 1990). South America has a virtual monopoly on the supply of coca leaves. The region is also a very efficient producer of other illegal agricultural products, such as opium poppies and marijuana.

Cali’s main weakness is the fact that the product it sells is illegal. This puts it at a competitive disadvantage with respect to legal narcotics, such as tobacco, alcohol, and Valium (Holloway, 1988). It faces much higher operating costs, contracts are not enforceable, and it has no access to traditional advertising media. This is by the fact that it is exempt from government regulations and taxes. Cocaine is essentially a commodity product, sold on price and purity. This means Cali cannot differentiate its product from other traffickers. However, this is not a serious weakness. Although Cali attempts to reduce the risk by using multiple routes, interdiction of a major shipment can cause a temporary loss of market share. As a high profile organization, Cali faces more intense scrutiny from law enforcement agencies than smaller independent traffickers (Bernards, 1990). With limited border checks and a relatively immature cocaine market, Europe in particular provides a significant opportunity for growth. Stimulate end-user demand. Attempt to get cocaine accepted as a fashionable drug again by associating it with high profile celebrities. Increase end-user demand by targeting users of “soft” drugs, possibly with cocaine-derived products that are taken orally (Bernards, 1990).

The organizations based in Mexico work much the same way that their predecessors and mentors from Cali worked over the years. By maintaining their headquarters in foreign countries and conducting all the details of their business in a protected environment, the heads of organized criminal drug trafficking organizations in Mexico have been able so far to avoid arrest in the United States.

Based in Tijuana, the Arellano-Felix Brothers organization (AFO) is one of the most powerful, violent, and aggressive trafficking groups in Mexico. The AFO is responsible for the transportation, importation, and distribution of multiton quantities of cocaine and marijuana, as well as large quantities of heroin and methamphetamine. Benjamin Arellano-Felix was the head of this organization. It operates in Tijuana, Baja California, and parts of the States of Sinaloa, Sonora, Jalisco, and most recently, Tamaulipas (Shaffer, 1990). Benjamin coordinates the activities of the organization through his brothers: Ramon, Eduardo, and Javier. Ramon Arellano-Felix, considered the most violent brother, organized and coordinated security operations for the AFO (Shaffer, 1990). On September 11, 1997, he was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.

The Caro-Quintero organization is based in Sonora, Mexico, and focuses on trafficking in cocaine and marijuana. Originally headed by Rafael Caro-Quintero, the organization was formerly part of the infamous Mexican Drug Trafficking Federation (Shaffer, 1990). Rafael has been incarcerated in Mexico since 1985 for his involvement in the murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena (Shaffer, 1990). Since then, the organization has been headed by Rafael’s brother, Miguel. To date, four U.S. indictments have been issued against Miguel Caro-Quintero, three in Arizona and one in Colorado. Although Miguel was arrested in 1992, that effort was negated when a Mexican federal judge in Hermosillo dropped all criminal charges and ordered his release from custody (Shaffer, 1990). In June 1999, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that Miguel could be extradited to the United States to face money laundering and marijuana trafficking charges, if he was arrested by Mexican police.

Until July 4, 1997, when Amado Carrillo-Fuentes died in Mexico City after undergoing plastic surgery, he was considered the most powerful trafficker in Mexico. The Juarez cartel, formerly known as the Amado Carrillo-Fuentes Organization, based in Juarez, is still involved in the trafficking of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Following Amado’s death, gang warfare within Mexico and in U.S. border towns escalated, affecting traffickers and innocents alike(Shaffer, 1990). While the full impact of Amado Carrillo-Fuentes’ death has not been totally assessed, it is clear that it caused a power struggle that resulted in approximately 60 drug-related murders in the Juarez area between August 1997 and September 1998 (Shaffer, 1990). Nevertheless, the Juarez Cartel continues to function effectively under several members formerly under Amado’s command. One such member, Vicente Carrillo-Fuentes, Amado’s brother, is now considered the leader of the organization. Vicente is wanted in Mexico and is under indictment in the Western District of Texas for operating a Continuing Criminal Enterprise.

The Amezcua-Contreras organization, based in Guadalajara, Mexico, and run by brothers Luis, Jesus, and Adan Amezcua-Contreras, is one of the most prominent methamphetamine trafficking organizations operating today, as well as the leading supplier of chemicals to other meth-trafficking organizations. By exploiting the legitimate international chemical trade, they hold an important key to producing meth on a grand scale. In June 1998, Jesus and Luis were arrested by Mexican authorities on non-drug-related charges. By October 1998, all criminal charges were dropped by a Guadalajara judge ( Nevertheless, the Government of Mexico re-arrested Jesus and Luis on Provisional Arrest Warrants issued in the United States. The warrants were based on a June 1998 indictment originating from Southern California. It charged the brothers with operating a Continuing Criminal Enterprise to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine, as well as conspiracy to possess ephedrine ( On May 19, 1999, Adan, arrested in November 1997 on weapons charges and then re-arrested in March 1999 for money laundering violations, was released from prison. The money laundering charges against Adan were dismissed due to a lack of evidence.

All of these cartels are similar in two aspects, money and power. All of these groups were involved with all kinds of illegal service. These cartels focused on drugs, money, and weapons. The Colombian cartels were once the most dominate cartels in the business, but now, there are many players in the game. The Mexican cartels were just one of the rivals for the Cali cartel. These groups are mostly not functioning anymore, but that does not mean that there is not a problem anymore. These cartels taught the younger generation cartels how to be a business and how to make money.

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