Drug cartel
Drug cartels are criminal organizations developed with the primary purpose of promoting and controlling drug trafficking
Illegal drug trade
The illegal drug trade is a global black market, dedicated to cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of those substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws. Most jurisdictions prohibit trade, except under license, of many types of drugs by drug prohibition laws.A UN report said the...

 operations. They range from loosely managed agreements among various drug traffickers to formalized commercial enterprises. The term was applied when the largest trafficking organizations reached an agreement to coordinate the production and distribution of cocaine. Since that agreement was broken up drug cartels are no longer actually cartel
A cartel is a formal agreement among competing firms. It is a formal organization of producers and manufacturers that agree to fix prices, marketing, and production. Cartels usually occur in an oligopolistic industry, where there is a small number of sellers and usually involve homogeneous products...

s in the proper sense of the word, but the term stuck and is now popularly used to refer to any criminal narcotics related organization, including Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

, Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, Guatemala
Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

, Honduras
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

, El Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

, Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles...

, Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

, Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

, Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 and South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

. Some cartels are even establishing themselves in U.S..

Below is basic structure of the drug cartel
Drug cartel
Drug cartels are criminal organizations developed with the primary purpose of promoting and controlling drug trafficking operations. They range from loosely managed agreements among various drug traffickers to formalized commercial enterprises. The term was applied when the largest trafficking...

s; in this case, the ones in Mexico:
  • Falcons (Halcones): Considered the “eyes and ears” of the streets, the 'falcons' are the lowest rank position in any drug cartel. They are responsible for supervising and reporting on the activities of the military and of their rival groups.

  • Hitmen (Sicarios): They are the armed group within the drug cartel; they are responsible for carrying out assassinations, kidnappings, thefts, extortions, operating protection rackets, and defending their 'plaza' from the rival groups and the military.

  • Lieutenants (Lugartenientes): The second highest position in the drug cartel organization; they are responsible for supervising the sicarios and halcones within their own territory. They are allowed to carry low-profile executions without permission from their bosses.

  • Drug lords (Capos): This is the highest position in any drug cartel; they are responsible for supervising the entire drug industry, appointing territorial leaders, making alliances, and planning high-profile executions.

It's worth noting that there are other operating groups within the drug cartels. For example, the drug producers and suppliers, although not considered in the basic structure, are critical operators of any drug cartel, along with the financers and money launderers. In addition, the arms suppliers operate in a completely different circle, and are technically not considered part of the cartel’s logistics.


Colombian Cartels is a generic term that usually refers to three, usually rival, criminal organizations involved in Illegal drug trade in Colombia
Illegal drug trade in Colombia
Illegal drug trade in Colombia refers to the practice of producing and distributing illegal drugs with psychoactive effects in Colombia. Colombia has had four major drug trafficking cartels which eventually created a new social class and influenced several aspects of Colombian culture...

  • Cali Cartel
    Cali Cartel
    The Cali Cartel was a drug cartel based in southern Colombia, around the city of Cali and the Valle del Cauca Department. The Cali Cartel was founded by the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers, Gilberto and Miguel, as well as associate José Santacruz Londoño...

  • Medellín Cartel
    Medellín Cartel
    The Medellín Cartel was an organized network of "drug suppliers and smugglers" originating in the city of Medellín, Colombia. The drug cartel operated in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Central America, the United States, as well as Canada and Europe throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It was founded and...

  • Norte del Valle Cartel
    Norte del Valle Cartel
    The Norte del Valle Cartel, or North Valley Cartel, is a drug cartel that operates principally in the north of the Valle del Cauca department of Colombia...

  • Los Rastrojos
    Los Rastrojos
    Los Rastrojos is a Colombian neo-paramilitary, armed group engaged in the Colombian armed conflict...

It sometimes also refers to other, lesser-known criminal organizations:
  • Bogota Cartel
  • Caqueta Cartel
  • Llano Cartel
  • North Coast Cartel
    North Coast Cartel
    The North Coast Cartel was a drug cartel operating in northern Colombia mostly controlling the area of the Colombian Caribbean coast illegal drug trade flow from other regions of Colombia and neighboring countries and local production. The North Coast Cartel was headed by Alberto Orlandez-Gamboa...

Other organizations in Colombia involved in drug trafficking include:
  • AUC
    United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
    The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia was created as an umbrella organization of regional far-right...

  • Black Eagles
    Black Eagles
    Black Eagles is a term describing a series of Colombian right wing, counter-revolutionary, paramilitary organizations made up of new and preexisting paramilitary forces, some of which were part of the demobilized Self-Defense Units of Colombia...

  • ELN
    National Liberation Army (Colombia)
    National Liberation Army is a revolutionary, avowed Marxist guerrilla group that has been operating in several regions of Colombia since 1964....

  • FARC
    Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
    The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People's Army is a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization based in Colombia which is involved in the ongoing Colombian armed conflict, currently involved in drug dealing and crimes against the civilians..FARC-EP is a peasant army which...

  • Los Rastrojos
    Los Rastrojos
    Los Rastrojos is a Colombian neo-paramilitary, armed group engaged in the Colombian armed conflict...

  • Oficina de Envigado
  • Los Paisas
  • Los Urabeños


Mexican cartels (also known in Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

La Mafia, Mañosos, Narcotraficantes, or simply as Narcos
') is a generic term that usually refers to several, usually rival, criminal organizations involved in the Mexican Drug War
Mexican Drug War
The Mexican Drug War is an ongoing armed conflict taking place among rival drug cartels who fight each other for regional control, and Mexican government forces who seek to combat drug trafficking. However, the government's principal goal has been to put down the drug-related violence that was...

  • Beltrán-Leyva Cartel
    Beltrán-Leyva Cartel
    The Beltrán-Leyva Cartel was a Mexican drug cartel and organized crime syndicate founded by the four Beltrán Leyva brothers: Marcos Arturo, Carlos, Alfredo and Héctor....

  • La Familia Cartel
  • Gulf Cartel
    Gulf Cartel
    The Gulf Cartel is one of the most powerful drug cartels in Mexico, and perhaps the oldest organized crime group in the country...

  • Juárez Cartel
    Juárez Cartel
    The Juárez Cartel , also known as the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization, is a Mexican drug cartel based in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas...

    • La Línea
      La Línea (gang)
      La Línea is a group of Mexican drug traffickers and corrupt Juárez and Chihuahua state police officers who work as the armed wing of the Juárez Cartel, which controls one of the primary transportation routes for billions of dollars worth of illegal drug shipments annually entering the United...

  • Los Negros
    Los Negros
    Los Negros was a criminal organization that was once the armed wing of the Sinaloa Cartel and after a switch of alliances, became the armed wing of the Beltrán Leyva Cartel. On 2010 it went independent and had been contesting the control of the Beltrán Leyva Cartel. It was then the criminal...

  • Los Zetas
    Los Zetas
    Los Zetas is the second most powerful drug cartel in Mexico and considered by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as the most violent drug cartel and paramilitary enforcement group in Mexico...

  • Sinaloa Cartel
    Sinaloa Cartel
    The Sinaloa Cartel is the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico and considered by the United States Intelligence Community as "the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world." The Sinaloa Cartel is based in the city of Culiacán, Sinaloa, but also operates in the Mexican states of Baja...

    • Gente Nueva
      Gente Nueva
      Gente Nueva , also known as Los Chapos, in reference to their supreme leader Joaquín Guzmán Loera, is a group of hitman that works as the armed wing of the Sinaloa Cartel....

  • South Pacific Cartel
    South Pacific Cartel
    The South Pacific Cartel , is a Mexican gang that originated in the Mexican state of Morelos.Although they call themselves a 'cartel', the gang is a local cell created on April 2010 by Héctor Beltrán Leyva, leader of the Beltran Leyva Cartel. The gang is known for having employed a 12-year-old...

  • Tijuana Cartel
    Tijuana Cartel
    The Tijuana Cartel is a Mexican drug cartel based in Tijuana. The cartel has been described as "one of the biggest and most violent criminal groups in Mexico"...

  • Los Caballeros Templarios
    • La Resistencia
      La Resistencia (gang)
      La Resistencia is a Mexican criminal gang composed by well trained gunmen from the Sinaloa Cartel, Gulf Cartel and Knights Templar Cartel dedicated to kill or expel Los Zetas Cartel operatives from the Mexican states of Michoacán and Jalisco.-History:La Resistencia gang was created by the Sinaloa...

Several other are lesser-known criminal organizations:
  • Colima Cartel
    Colima Cartel
    The Colima Cartel was a Mexican drug trafficking and methamphetamine producing cartel operating out of Guadalajara, Jalisco. It was formerly founded and led by José de Jesús Amezcua Contreras while and supported by his brothers Adán and Luis....

  • Guadalajara Cartel
    Guadalajara Cartel
    The Guadalajara Cartel was a Mexican drug cartel which was formed in the 1980s by Rafael Caro Quintero, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo in order to ship heroin and marijuana to the United States...

  • Milenio Cartel
    Milenio Cartel
    The Milenio Cartel, or Cártel de los Valencia, was an organized crime gang originally based in Michoacán, Mexico. The group splintered from the Juárez Cartel in 1999 and it is currently operating as a branch of the powerful La Familia Michoacana, and has relocated to Guadalajara city.Luis Valencia...

  • Oaxaca Cartel
    Oaxaca Cartel
    The Oaxaca cartel is one of the smaller drug cartels currently operating in Mexico and at the service of the Tijuana Cartel; it focuses on marijuana and cocaine trafficking and operates in southern Mexico, particularly in the states of Oaxaca and Chiapas....

  • Sonora Cartel
    Sonora Cartel
    The Sonora Cartel, also called the Caro-Quintero Organization, was a Mexico based criminal cartel. Upon of the cartel's disintegration, its leaders were incorporated into the Tijuana Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel....

  • Barrio Azteca
    Barrio Azteca
    The Barrio Azteca, or Los Aztecas, is a Mexican Prison gang originally based in El Paso, Texas. The group worked as a paramilitary armed wing for the Juárez Cartel in 1997 and it is currently operating as a branch of the powerful La Línea , and has relocated to Guadalajara city.Eduardo Ravelo...

  • Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación
    • Grupo Mata Zetas
  • Cártel Independiente de Acapulco
  • La Nueva Administración
  • Cártel del Centro
  • Cártel de La Calle
  • Cártel de la Sierra
  • La Mano Con Ojos (gang)
  • Artistas Asesinos (gang)
  • Los Mexicles (gang)
  • Los Chachos (gang)
  • La Barredora (gang)
    • El Comando Del Diablo (gang)
  • La Oficina (gang)
  • Los Texas (gang)

Other organizations involved (or have been involved) in the drug trade in Mexico. It is worth mentioning, however, that this does not necessarily imply for the whole institutions mentioned below, just a selected few within it:
  • Municipal police forces in Mexico
  • Federal police forces in Mexico
  • State police forces in Mexico
  • Mexican Army
    Mexican Army
    The Mexican Army is the combined land and air branch and largest of the Mexican Military services; it also is known as the National Defense Army. It is famous for having been the first army to adopt and use an automatic rifle, , in 1899, and the first to issue automatic weapons as standard issue...

  • Mexican Navy
    Mexican Navy
    The Mexican Navy is the naval branch of the Mexican military responsible for conducting naval operations. Its stated mission is "to use the naval force of the federation for the exterior defense, and to help with internal order". The Navy consists of about 56,000 men and women plus reserves, over...

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection is a federal law enforcement agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security charged with regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing U.S. regulations, including trade, customs and immigration. CBP is the...

  • Mexico City International Airport
    Mexico City International Airport
    Benito Juárez International Airport , in Venustiano Carranza, one of the sixteen boroughs into which Mexico's Federal District is divided, is a commercial airport that serves Mexico City, the capital of Mexico...

  • Club Tijuana (football)
    Club Tijuana
    Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente is a Mexican football team from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Tijuana plays in the Primera División de México It was founded in January 2007. The colors that identify the club are red and black.-History:...

United States

  • Texas Syndicate
    Texas Syndicate
    The Texas Syndicate is a mostly Texas-based prison gang that includes Hispanic and at one time, White members...

  • La Mafia Mexicana
    Mexican Mafia
    The Mexican Mafia , also known as La Eme , 13 is a Mexican American criminal organization, and is one of the oldest and most powerful prison gangs in the United States.-Foundation:...

  • Mara Salvatrucha
    Mara Salvatrucha
    Mara Salvatrucha is a transnational criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles and has spread to other parts of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. The majority of the gang is ethnically composed of Central Americans and active in urban and suburban areas...

  • Nuestra Familia
    Nuestra Familia
    Nuestra Familia is a criminal organization of Mexican American prison gangs with origins in Northern California. While members of the Norteños gang are considered to be affiliated with Nuestra Familia, being a member of Nuestra Familia itself does not signify association as a Norteño...

  • Logan Heights Gang
    Logan Heights Gang
    The Logan Heights gang is a Sureño street gang based in Southeast San Diego. - History :The Logan Heights gang was established in Southeast San Diego during the 1960's, when several individual Mexican-American street gangs from the neighborhoods of Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, and Memorial unified...

  • 18th Street gang
    18th Street gang
    18th Street gang is considered to be the largest transnational criminal gang in Los Angeles, California. It is estimated that there are thousands of members in Los Angeles County alone...

  • Sureños 13
  • Norteños 14
    The Norteños , also Norte, are affiliated with Nuestra Familia , are a coalition of traditionally Latino gangs in Northern California A member of these gangs is a Norteño or Norteña based on Spanish usage...

  • Mexikanemi
    Mexikanemi is known as the Texas Mexican Mafia in the Texan penal systems. As it functions separately from the original California Mexican Mafia , Mexikanemi was formed as an offshoot from the Mexican Mafia in Texas by Heriberto "Herbie" Huerta in 1984.- References :* Mexikanemi Summary*...


  • Ndrangheta
  • Cosa Nostra
  • Camorra Mafia
    The Camorra is a Mafia-type criminal organization, or secret society, originating in the region of Campania and its capital Naples in Italy. It is one of the oldest and largest criminal organizations in Italy, dating to the 18th century.-Background:...

  • La Stidda
    La Stidda is a name for Mafia-type criminal organizations centered in Gela, Sicily, in Italy. Members are known as stiddari or stiddaroli. It is most active in the rural parts of southern Sicily and is partially a rival to Cosa Nostra...

  • Sacra Corona Unita
    Sacra corona unita
    Sacra Corona Unita, or United Sacred Crown, is a Mafia-like criminal organization from Apulia region in Southern Italy, and is especially active in the areas of Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto .-Background and activities:...

  • Mala del Brenta
    Mala del Brenta
    The Mala del Brenta is a criminal organisation based in the Veneto, north-eastern Italy.The criminal organization's structure is believed to be based upon some elements of the Cosa Nostra and Camorra model...

  • Basilischi Mafia
  • Nuova Famiglia Salentina
  • Rosa dei Venti
  • Remo Lecce Libera
  • Società foggiana
  • Clan dei Casamonica


  • Russian Mafia
    Russian Mafia
    The Russian Mafia is a name applied to organized crime syndicates in Russia and Ukraine. The mafia in various countries take the name of the country, as for example the Ukrainian mafia....

  • Chechen mafia
    Chechen mafia
    The Chechen mafia is one of the largest organized crime groups operating in the former Soviet Union next to established Russian mafia gangs, which originally consisted of criminals of Chechen ethnicity who later also tried to recruit former Russian special military forces, police and army officers...

  • Tambov Gang
    Tambov Gang
    The Tambov Gang is a large gang in Saint Petersburg, Russia. According to common allegations, it was organized in St. Petersburg in 1988 by two men from Tambov Oblast, Vladimir Kumarin and Valery Ledovskikh. The gang is named after their region of origin, Tambov Oblast...

  • Thief in law
    Thief in law
    Thief in law is a criminal who is respected, has authority and a high ranking status within the...

  • Solntsevskaya Bratva
    Solntsevskaya bratva
    The Solntsevskaya Bratva is a powerful organized crime organization from Moscow, Russia. It is named after the Solntsevo neighborhood in the city. It is considered to be one the most dangerous criminal organizations in the entire world.-History:...


  • Afridi Network
    • Afghan drug traffickers
      Opium production in Afghanistan
      Afghanistan has been the greatest illicit opium producer in the entire world, ahead of Burma and the "Golden Triangle" since 1992, excluding the year 2001. Afghanistan is the main producer of opium in the "Golden Crescent". Opium production in Afghanistan has been on the rise since U.S....

      • Noorzai Organization
        Haji Bashar
        Haji Bashir Noorzai is a convicted former Afghan drug lord, the Asian counterpart of the Colombian cocaine legend Pablo Escobar. He was an early supporter of the austere Taliban movement, and later worked as an undercover agent on behalf of the U.S. government...

      • Khan cartel
        Juma Khan
        Haji Juma Khan, an ethnic Baluch from Afghanistan’s Nimroz Province, is a drug lord with links to the Taliban. The title Haji indicates that he has completed the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca....

Other parts of the world

  • United Wa State Army
    United Wa State Army
    The United Wa State Army is an ethnic minority army of an estimated 30,000 Wa soldiers of Myanmar's Special Region No. 2 led by Bao Youxiang . There is no recognised Wa State in Myanmar, which is divided into divisions, states, and special regions...

  • Dojin-kai
    The is a yakuza organization headquartered in Kurume, Fukuoka on the Kyushu island of Japan, a designated yakuza syndicate, with approximately at least 850 members....

  • Kyushu Seido-kai
    Kyushu Seido-kai
    The is a yakuza organization based in Fukuoka Prefecture on the Kyushu island of Japan, with an estimated 380 active members. Headquartered in the southern Fukuoka region of Omuta, the Kyushu Seido-kai maintains its offices in five other prefectures including Tokyo....

  • Bosnian mafia
    Bosnian mafia
    The Bosnian Mafia is a term used to describe illegal gangs and criminal organisations operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina and within the Bosnian diaspora. Bosnian organised crime figures operate mostly in Europe, as well as in Canada, the United States and Australia...

  • Bulgarian mafia
    Bulgarian mafia
    The Bulgarian mafia is an informal term to describe any number of organized crime groups originating from Bulgaria.-Organised crime groups and activities:...

  • Albanian mafia
    Albanian mafia
    The Albanian Mafia or Albanian organized crime are the general terms used for criminal organizations based in Albania or composed of ethnic Albanians. Albanian organized crime is active in Albania, the United States, and the European Union countries, participating in a diverse range of criminal...

  • Corsican mafia
    Corsican mafia
    The Corsican mafia is the general term used to describe the various criminal groups originating from Corsica. The Corsican mafia is one of the most influential organized crime structures in France, also active in many African and Latin American countries...

  • Estonian mafia
    Estonian mafia
    Estonian mafia is a loose alliance of Estonian mobster groups, principally of Russian groups ethnic or origins, with a wide range of different rackets...

  • Irish mob
    Irish Mob
    The Irish Mob is one of the oldest organized crime groups in the United States, in existence since the early 19th century. Originating in Irish American street gangs of the 19th century — depicted in Herbert Asbury's 1928 book The Gangs of New York — the Irish Mob has appeared in most...

  • Macedonian Mafia
    Macedonian Mafia
    The Macedonian Mafia is a term used to describe illegal gangs and criminal organisations operating in the Republic of Macedonia and within the Macedonian diaspora.-Background:...

  • Montenegrin Mafia
    Montenegrin Mafia
    The Montenegrin Mafia or Montenegrin Cartel are terms used for the various criminal organizations based in Montenegro or composed of Montenegrins. There are 700 documented organized criminals operating within Montenegro; outside of the country Montenegrin gangs are active throughout Europe-notably...

  • Serbian mafia
    Serbian mafia
    Serbian Organized Crime or Naša Stvar are various criminal organizations based in Serbia or composed of ethnic Serbs in the Serbian Diaspora. Serbian mafiosos are very active in European Union countries...

  • Slovak mafia
    Slovak mafia
    Slovak mafia constitutes various organized crime groups in Slovakia, controlled primarily by Slovak interests. Slovak mafia does not have significant international presence and even in Slovakia, their activities are limited by boundaries set by the powerful Russian mafia and various Balkan groups...

  • Triad
  • Yakuza
    , also known as , are members of traditional organized crime syndicates in Japan. The Japanese police, and media by request of the police, call them bōryokudan , literally "violence group", while the yakuza call themselves "ninkyō dantai" , "chivalrous organizations". The yakuza are notoriously...

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