Global drug trade remains firmly in the hands of organised crime, with ruthless violence used to protect the illegal business and ensure that astronomical profits will continue flowing in.
The rise of international drug syndicates was one of the unintended consequences of the ban on drugs since the staggering amounts of money originating from drugs sales enable criminal organisations to reach amazing organisational and technical levels. Notorious criminal groups exist all over the world, and in most cases, drug trafficking serves as one of their main sources of income, even if their transgressions typically include more heinous atrocities on top of the narcotics trade.
Since criminals don’t publish their financial reports, it’s difficult to estimate which groups are the most powerful at any given moment, but the following list will give you a good idea about the current balance of power in the top echelon of global drug trafficking.
Sinaloa cartel is one of the oldest narco-trafficking groups in Mexico, founded in the 1980’s with a ‘headquarters’ in the city of Culiacan, Sinaloa and a power base in the northern federal states of Durango, Sonora, Baja California and Chihuahua. Led by the infamous ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, this Mexican gang is raking in enormous profits from drug smuggling across the U.S. border.
Cocaine is the staple of their trade, but marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine contribute a fair share, as well. For the past several years, the cartel is embroiled in a bloody war with rival trafficking factions (such as Los Zetas), as well as with the government. The cartel also controls a network of distribution cells in the United States which is used to quickly and effectively sell huge amounts of drugs on behalf of the Mexican kingpins.
The Sinaloa Cartel is best known for:
- Their leader, El Chapo frequently escaping from jail
- Cocaine smuggling
Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13)
This gang consists mostly of men of Hispanic origin, primarily from El Salvador and other Central American countries, and operates in all larger U.S. cities, as well as in Mexico and Canada. It is organised according to very strict, military-like principles and is well known for the popularity of face tattoos among the initiated members and use of hand signs for communication. Mara Salvatrucha has a well-earned reputation for brutality since its soldiers have been known to engage in bloody acts of revenge against their enemies. The gang was originally founded in Los Angeles by immigrants and continues to be involved in trafficking of people, as well as drugs, into the United States, but affiliated groups are present from East to West coast today.
MS-13 are best known for:
- Their brutal initiations
- People trafficking
- Extreme violence
- Full face tattoo’s
Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC)
Few criminal scenes in the world can match the intensity characteristic for Brazil, where the struggle for control of the drug business claims hundreds of lives every year. Primero Comando de Capital is perhaps the most prominent of the Brazilian drug gangs, with around 13,000 confirmed members, almost half of them incarcerated within the prison system.
Curiously, this gang was started with a political agenda to avenge victims of police violence, and it frequently engages in a murder of law enforcement officers in addition to more profitable activities such as drugs distribution in all major Brazilian cities. PCC is often described as a coalition of gangs that recruits new members from across the Brazilian society.
The PCC is most known for:
- Majority of PCC members are in prisonC
- Avenging police brutality victims
Even by Mexican cartel standards, Los Zetas are taking violence to wholly unprecedented level, with mass killing of civilians and extensive torture of rival traffickers becoming commonplace in areas where they are present. Originally formed from military deserters to serve as an enforcement and security arm of the Gulf cartel, they soon turned independent and started running their own smuggling routes while raising the intensity of the already raging drug war.
It is normal for Los Zetas to murder multiple victims and intentionally leave the bodies in public places, in a demonstration of force designed to intimidate enemies and scare local populations into silence. Since most of its forces are stationed near the American border, the gang was able to exert significant influence over the drugs business and wrestle away a large piece of the pie from older cartels.
The Loz Zetas gang are known for:
- Their top members are ex-army
- Access to massive firepower
- Public displays of power such as beheadings and hangings
Italians are traditionally regarded as forefathers of organised crime and they still hold a prominent place in global criminal circles. Camorra is based in mainland Italy, with roots stretching back to 16th century and offices in the United Kingdom, U.S. and other western countries. Its inner workings are similar to those of the Sicilian Mafia, with members sworn to silence and secrecy for life.
However, individual families within the syndicate have much more organisational freedom and collaborate through loose alliances rather than firm command structure. The organisation pioneered trans-Atlantic drug routes into America way back in the 1970’s and still commands enough attention that President Obama named it among the most dangerous criminal groups working on U.S. soil as recently as 2012.
The Camorra cartel are known for:
- Influence of civil services around Naples, Italy
- Worldwide criminal network reach
- The film ‘The Godfather’ was supposed to be about the Camorra cartel
Southern Italy, or Calabria region more precisely, is the home to another infamous crime syndicate that makes most of its money through extortion, large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering. Originally limited to its home turf, ‘Ndrangheta acquired its reputation through the incredible capacity for barbaric violence and eventually expanded its influence both domestically and abroad.
The business is going so well these days that total annual income of the organisation is estimated to be around 3% of Italy’s GDP. Importation of Colombian cocaine into Europe is the greatest source of wealth for the organisation, but this arm is well supported by a broad network of legal fronts set up across the continent.
The ‘Ndrangheta gang are known for:
- Extortion & Drug Dealing
- Large-scale money laundering through their “legitimate” businesses
Racial ideology is a binding force behind this brutal prison gang, but common crime and drug dealing are the everyday reality of Aryan Brotherhood. Despite the fact that it started within the prison system, the gang is actively present in the streets of American cities, where it vies for control against rivals such as Bloods and Crips.
Infamous for its neo-Nazi iconography and propensity for cold-blooded murder, the gang is estimated to have around 10,000 active members at present time. Most of the top bosses are serving life sentences already, but that doesn’t prevent them from running a criminal empire from their cells and creating huge profits from drug sales, both inside the prisons and on the outside.
The Aryan Brotherhood are well known for:
- Neo-nazis ideology
- Starting and mainly running the gang from prison
- Violent attacks on non Aryan Brotherhood members
This article was originally written in English, If you see any errors please email us at words@The-TripReport.com