A drug cartel is any criminal organization with the intention of supplying 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 organizations reached an agreement to coordinate the production and distribution of cocaine. Since that agreement was broken up, 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 basic structure of a drug cartel is as follows:
- Falcons (Spanish: Halcones): Considered as the "eyes and ears" of the streets, the "falcons" are the lowest rank in any drug cartel. They are responsible for supervising and reporting the activities of the police, the military, and rival groups.
- Hitmen (Spanish: Sicarios): The armed group within the drug cartel, responsible for carrying out assassinations, kidnappings, thefts, and extortions, operating protection rackets, and defending their plaza (turf) from rival groups and the military.
- Lieutenants (Spanish: Tenientes): The second highest position in the drug cartel organization, responsible for supervising the hitmen and falcons within their own territory. They are allowed to carry out low-profile murders without permission from their bosses.
- Drug lords (Spanish: Capos): The highest position in any drug cartel, responsible for supervising the entire drug industry, appointing territorial leaders, making alliances, and planning high-profile murders.
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 financiers 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.
- Cape Verdean organized crime
- Nigerian organized crime
- Mai-Mai militia gangs
- Moroccan hashish smugglers
- Rivard organization
- Red Scorpions
- Bacon Brothers
- Indo-Canadian organized crime
- Canadian mafia families
Mexican cartels (also known in Mexico as: la Mafia (the mafia or the mob), La Maña (the skill / the bad manners), narcotraficantes (narco-traffickers), or simply as narcos usually refers to several, rival, criminal organizations that are combated by the Mexican government in the Mexican War on Drugs (List sorted by branches and heritage): The DEA considers (2020) the Cartel of Sinaloa, Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, Organización Beltrán Leyva, Cartel del Noreste y Los Zetas, Guerreros Unidos, Cártel del Golfo, Cártel de Juárez y La Línea, La Familia Michoacana, Los Rojos the most influential cartels in Mexico.
- Gulf Cartel (The oldest Mexican criminal syndicate, started as prohibition-era bootlegging gang)
- Guadalajara Cartel (The first full-fledged Mexican drug cartel, from which most of the big cartels spawned) (disbanded in 1989)
- Sinaloa Cartel (Spawned from the Guadalajara Cartel)
- Colima Cartel (Disbanded, former members are now a branch of the Sinaloa Cartel)
- Sonora Cartel (Disbanded in 1989, its remnants joined the Sinaloa Cartel)
- Artistas Asesinos (hitman squad) (Disbanded)
- Gente Nueva (Sinaloa cell in Chihuahua) (Disbanded)
- Los Ántrax (enforcer squad)
- Milenio Cartel (First loyal to the Sinaloa Cartel federation, later independent) (disbanded)
- Beltrán-Leyva Cartel (Formerly part of the Sinaloa Cartel federation, later independent) (disbanded)
- Los Negros (Beltran-Leyva enforcement squad) (Disbanded)
- South Pacific Cartel (branch of the Beltran Leyva Cartel in Morelos)
- Cártel del Centro (cell of the Beltran-Leyva Cartel in Mexico City) (Disbanded)
- Cártel Independiente de Acapulco (Splinter from the Beltran-Leyva Cartel)
- La Barredora (gang)
- El Comando Del Diablo (gang) (Hitman squad of la Barredora) (Disbanded)
- La Mano Con Ojos (gang) (small cell of Beltran-Leyva members in the State of Mexico) (Disbanded)
- La Nueva Administración (Splintered from the Beltran-Leyva Cartel) (Disbanded)
- La Oficina (gang) (cell of the Beltran-Leyva Cartel in Aguascalientes) (Disbanded)
- Cártel de la Sierra (cell in Guerrero)
- Cártel de La Calle (cell in Chiapas)
- Los Chachos (gang in Tamaulipas) (Disbanded)
- Tijuana Cartel (Spawned from the Guadalajara Cartel)
- Oaxaca Cartel (Was a branch of the disbanded Tijuana Cartel, its regional leader was captured in 2007)
- Juárez Cartel(Spawned from the Guadalajara Cartel)
- Lesser-known small-criminal organizations:
- Government officials: Other organizations that have been involved in drug trade or traffic in Mexico (this does not necessarily apply for the whole institution):
- Mexican officials:
- United States officials:
The United States of America is the world's largest consumer of cocaine and other illegal drugs. This is a list of American criminal organizations involved in illegal drug traffic, drug trade and other related crimes in the United States:
- National Crime Syndicate
- Polish Mob
- Prohibition-era gangs
- Los Angeles (See also Rampart scandal)
- Dixie Mafia
- Greek-American organized crime
- Assyrian/Chaldean mafia
- Wall gang
- Elkins mob
- The Chickens and the Bulls
- Binion mob
- Johnston gang
Italian immigrants to the United States in the early 19th century formed various small-time gangs which gradually evolved into sophisticated crime syndicates which dominated organized crime in America for several decades. Although government crackdowns and a less-tightly knit Italian-American community have largely reduced their power, they remain an active force in the underworld.
Active crime families
- American Mafia
- The Commission
- The Five Families of New York City
- Magaddino crime family
- DeCavalcante crime family
- The Chicago Outfit (see also Unione Siciliane)
- Las Vegas crew (defunct)
- Philadelphia crime family
- Pittsburgh crime family
- Patriarca crime family
- Cleveland crime family
- Los Angeles crime family
- Kansas City crime family
- Trafficante crime family
- Detroit Partnership
- Milwaukee crime family
- New Orleans crime family
Defunct mafia families
- Morello crime family
- Genna crime family
- Porrello crime family
- St. Louis crime family
- Rochester Crime Family
- Bufalino crime family
- Dallas crime family
- Denver crime family
- San Francisco crime family
- San Jose crime family
- Seattle crime family
- Omaha crime family
- Licavoli Mob
- Cardinelli gang
- New York Camorra
- East Harlem Purple Gang
- New York City
- Los Angeles
- The Purple Gang
- Zwillman gang
- Kid Cann's gang
- Birger mob
- Cleveland Syndicate
- New York City
- The Family
- Oakland, California
- Washington, D.C.
- Atlantic City
- Rosemond Organization
- Prohibition-era Chicago gangs
- Danny Hogan's gang
- Danny Walsh gang
- Tom Dennison empire
- Danny Greene's Celtic Club
- Nucky Johnson's Organization
- K&A Gang
- Enright gang
- New York
- St Louis
- Chadee gang (Trinidad and Tobago)
- Jamaican Yardies & Posses
- No Limit Soldiers
- Phantom death squad (Guyana)
- Zoe Pound (Haitian, see also Tonton Macoute)
- Dominican drug cartels
- Comando Vermelho
- Primeiro Comando da Capital
- Terceiro Comando Puro
- Terceiro Comando
- Amigos dos Amigos
- Bolivian drug cartels (See also García Meza regime drug trafficking)
Active Colombian Drug Cartels.
- The Black Eagles
- Clan del Golfo
- Oficina de Envigado
- National Liberation Army (Colombia)
- FARC dissidents
- Los Rastrojos
Historical Colombian Drug Cartels.
- Medellín Cartel
- Cali Cartel
- Norte del Valle Cartel
- North Coast Cartel
- United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
- Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
Historically Venezuela has been a path to the United States for illegal drugs originating in Colombia, through Central America and Mexico and Caribbean countries such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.
According to the United Nations, there has been an increase of cocaine trafficking through Venezuela since 2002. In 2005, Venezuela severed ties with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), accusing its representatives of spying. Following the departure of the DEA from Venezuela and the expansion of DEA's partnership with Colombia in 2005, Venezuela became more attractive to drug traffickers. Between 2008 and 2012, Venezuela's cocaine seizure ranking among other countries declined, going from being ranked fourth in the world for cocaine seizures in 2008 to sixth in the world in 2012. The cartel groups involved include:
- The Cuntrera-Caruana Mafia clan moved to Venezuela, which became an important hideout as the clan bought hotels and founded various businesses in Caracas and Valencia, as well as an extended ranch in Barinas, near the Colombian border. "Venezuela has its own Cosa Nostra family as if it is Sicilian territory," according to the Italian police. "The structure and hierarchy of the Mafia has been entirely reproduced in Venezuela." The Cuntrera-Caruana clan had direct links with the ruling Commission of the Sicilian Mafia, and are acknowledged by the American Cosa Nostra.
Pasquale, Paolo and Gaspare Cuntrera were expelled from Venezuela in 1992, "almost secretly smuggled out of the country, as if it concerned one of their own drug transports. It was imperative they could not contact people on the outside who could have used their political connections to stop the expulsion." Their expulsion was ordered by a commission of the Venezuelan Senate headed by Senator Cristobal Fernandez Dalo and his money laundering investigator, Thor Halvorssen Hellum. They were arrested in September 1992 at Fiumicino airport (Rome), and in 1996 were sentenced to 13–20 years.
- Norte del Valle Cartel : In 2008 the leader of the Colombian Norte del Valle Cartel, Wilber Varela, was found murdered in a hotel in Mérida in Venezuela. In 2010, Venezuela arrested and deported to the United States Jaime Alberto "Beto" Marin, then head of the Norte del Valle Cartel.
- The Cartel of the Suns According to Jackson Diehl. Deputy Editorial Page Editor of The Washington Post, the Bolivarian government of Venezuela shelters "one of the world’s biggest drug cartels". There have also been allegations that former president Hugo Chávez and Diosdado Cabello being involved with drug trafficking.
In May 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported from United States officials that drug trafficking in Venezuela increased significantly with Colombian drug traffickers moving from Colombia to Venezuela due to pressure from law enforcement. One United States Department of Justice official described the higher ranks of the Venezuelan government and military as "a criminal organization", with high ranking Venezuelan officials, such as National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, being accused of drug trafficking. Those involved with investigations stated that Venezuelan government defectors and former traffickers had given information to investigators and that details of those involved in government drug trafficking were increasing.
See also Kenji Doihara's criminal activities
The yakuza of Japan are similar to the Italian mafias in that they originated centuries ago and follow a rigid set of traditions, but have several aspects that make them unique, such as their full-body tattoos and their fairly open place in Japanese society. Many yakuza groups are umbrella organizations, smaller gangs reporting to a larger crime syndicate.
Active yakuza groups
- Roku-daime Yamaguchi-gumi 六代目山口組
- Inagawa-kai 稲川会
- Sumiyoshi-kai 住吉会
- Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi
- Matsuba-kai 松葉会
- Kyokuto-kai 極東会
- Dojin-kai 道仁会
- Yon-daime Kudo-kai 四代目工藤會
- Roku-daime Aizu-Kotetsu-kai 六代目会津小鉄会
- Okinawa Kyokuryu-kai 沖縄旭琉会
- Kyushu Seido-kai 九州誠道会
- Go-daime Kyosei-kai 五代目共政会
- San-daime Fukuhaku-kai 三代目福博会
- Soai-kai 双愛会
- Yon-daime Kyokuryu-kai 四代目旭琉会
- San-daime Kyodo-kai 三代目俠道会
- Taishu-kai 太州会
- Shichi-daime Goda-ikka 七代目合田一家
- Toa-kai 東亜会
- Ni-daime Azuma-gumi 二代目東組
- Yon-daime Asano-gumi 四代目浅野組
- Hachi-daime Sakaume-gumi 八代目酒梅組
- Yon-daime Kozakura-ikka 四代目小桜一家
- Ni-daime Shinwa-kai 二代目親和会
Defunct yakuza groups
- Kantō-kai 関東会
- Ni-daime Honda-kai 二代目本多会
- Ichiwa-kai 一和会
- San-daime Yamano-kai 三代目山野会
- Nakano-kai 中野会
- Kyokuto Sakurai-soke-rengokai 極東桜井總家連合会
The Triads is a popular name for a number of Chinese criminal secret societies, which have existed in various forms over the centuries (see for example Tiandihui). However, not all Chinese gangs fall into line with these traditional groups, as many non-traditional criminal organizations have formed, both in China and the Chinese diaspora.
- Hong Kong-based Triads
- Sio Sam Ong (小三王)
- Chinese-American gangs (See also Tongs)
- Taiwan-based Triads
- Mainland Chinese crime groups (see also Hanlong Group)
- Triads in Cholon
- Wu Bang
- Golden Triangle
- Chao pho
- Filipino crime gangs (See also Abu Sayyaf and New People's Army)
- Cambodian crime gangs
- Teng Bunma organization
- Malaysian crime gangs
- Secret societies in Singapore
Vietnamese Xã Hội Đen
- Bình Xuyên
- Đại Cathay's mafia during the 60s
- Năm Cam's mafia of the 90s
- Khánh Trắng's "Đồng Xuân Labor Union", a crime syndicate under the guise of a legal entity
- Dung Hà's gang
- Vũ Xuân Trường's gang: a crime syndicate led by Vũ Xuân Trường, a government official and also a drug lord.
- Indian mafia (See also Insurgency in Northeast India)
- Pathan mafia
- Uttar Pradesh
- Kala Kaccha Gang
- Chaddi Baniyan Gang
- Sri Lankan criminal groups
- Pakistani mafia (See also Peoples' Aman Committee, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and ISI involvement with drugs)
- Mafia Raj
- Dacoit gangs
- Israeli mafia (see also Stern Gang)
- Turkish mafia
- Crime groups in Turkey (see also Deep state and Yüksekova Gang)
- Kurdish mafia (see also Kurdistan Workers' Party)
- Turkish organised crime in Great Britain
- Turkish organised crime in Germany
- Imac clan (Netherlands)
- Iranian organized crime (see also Jundallah and illegal activities of the IRGC)
- Lebanese mafia (See also Lebanese Civil War militias)
- Golden Crescent
- Uzbek mafia (See also Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan)
- Kyrgyz mafia
Although organized crime existed in the Soviet era, the gangs really gained in power and international reach during the transition to capitalism. The term Russian Mafia, 'mafiya' or mob is a blanket (and somewhat inaccurate) term for the various organized crime groups that emerged in this period from the 15 former republics of the USSR and unlike their Italian counterparts does not mean members are necessarily of Russian ethnicity or uphold any ancient criminal traditions, although this is the case for some members.
- Russian-Jewish mafia
- Brothers' Circle (Existence is debatable)
- Russian mafia (See also Lubyanka Criminal Group, Three Whales Corruption Scandal and Sergei Magnitsky)
See also Caucasus Emirate
- Georgian mafia (See also Mkhedrioni and Forest Brothers)
- Armenian mafia
- Azeri mafia
- Chechen mafia (See also Special Purpose Islamic Regiment and Kadyrovtsy)
- Original Gangsters
- Fucked For Life
- Chosen Ones
- Werewolf Legion
- French Milieu (See also Service d'Action Civique)
- Corsican mafia (see also National Liberation Front of Corsica)
- Les Caïds Des Cités
- Wigs gang
- North African Brigade (see also Carlingue)
- Tractions Avant gang
- Bande des Trois Canards
- French gypsy gangs
- Ireland (See also Irish Republican Army)
- Sicilian Mafia
- La Provincia
- Secondigliano Alliance
- Di Lauro Clan
- Casalesi clan
- Fabbrocino clan
- Vollaro clan
- Scissionisti di Secondigliano
- La Torre clan
- Polverino clan
- Rinaldi clan
- De Luca Bossa clan
- Aprea-Cuccaro clan
- Cesarano clan
- Puca clan
- Sacra Corona Unita
- Società foggiana
- Mala del Brenta
- Banda della Magliana
- Mafia Capitale
- Sinti Casamonica clan
- Clan Spada di Ostia
- Milanese gangs
Balkan organized crime gained prominence in the chaos following the communist era, notably the transition to capitalism and the wars in former Yugoslavia.
- Albanian mafia
- Bosnian mafia
- Bulgarian mafia (see also Multigroup)
- Serbian mafia
- Montenegrin mafia (see also allegations of Milo Đukanović's involvement in cigarette smuggling)
- Macedonian mafia
- Frankfurt mafia
- Bajrush klan
- Nezim klan'
- Romanian mafia
- Essex Boys
- Aggi Crew
- Brighton razor gangs
- Bestwood Cartel
Other organized crime groups based in Europe
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