How do drug cartels operate in the world of illegal drugs?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It's no secret that marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and meth make huge amounts of money. If a drug trafficker buys a kilogram of cocaine for 2,000, he or she can sell it for $30,000 in the US (and that's a conservative estimate). Drug traffickers are attracted by this huge profit, and...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

It's no secret that marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and meth make huge amounts of money. If a drug trafficker buys a kilogram of cocaine for 2,000, he or she can sell it for $30,000 in the US (and that's a conservative estimate). Drug traffickers are attracted by this huge profit, and they are willing to undertake the risks associated with this illegal activity.

First, a "cartel" is the name given to an organization trafficking illegal drugs. The first Mexican cartel arose in the 1980s in Guadalajara. When the founder of this cartel (Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, popularly know as "padrino") died, he broke his cartel up into five smaller cartels responsible for particular geographic regions in Mexico which remain today.

Cartels operate with elaborate and hierarchical structures, including "commands" (people who give orders), "lieutenants," (who carry out the commands' orders and conduct training for new cartel recruits), "hitmen" (who, as the name suggest, kill those who stand in the way of the cartel's operations), "hawks" (who exercise vigilance over distribution locations), and "leopards" (prostitutes who spy on the activities of cartel employees and customers). There are also people involved in spying on communications. It is estimated that the Mexican drug trade employs around half a million people. Because the drug trade is so profitable, and because only about 20% of the vehicles crossing the border into the US are inspected, many individuals of diverse backgrounds are attracted to this line of work.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team