Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What Exactly is A "Mexican Drug Cartel?"

Drug Wars: When a `Cartel' Really Isn't

By Marc Lacey
September 21, 2009, 10:20 am

Mexico's drug cartels are many things: murderous, dangerous and
remarkably effective at smuggling huge quantities of illegal drugs into
the United States. But are they really cartels?

Cartels are organizations that control prices and production. They often
divvy up territories, rig bids and engage in other collusive acts. On
the international relations front, the Organization of Petroleum
Exporting Countries is the most famous example.

Mexico's drug cartels grab far more headlines than OPEC these days,
with their bloody executions, their buying off of police officers and
politicians, and their role as world-class producers and suppliers of
heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, and as traffickers of cocaine.

Much of the carnage in Mexico, it turns out, is evidence that these
so-called cartels are not really cartels, in an economic sense of the
word. Whatever cooperation these cartels once had has now largely broken
down. Inter- and intra-cartel violence is responsible for the vast
majority of the drug-related murders in the country, law enforcement
officials in Mexico and the United States maintain.

Pick a violent city in Mexico, whether it is Ciudad Juarez or Tijuana or
Culiacan, and there is inevitably one cartel battling another for
control of the "plaza," which is the local term for turf or
trafficking route. In many cases, cartels have split, with rivals
battling for control. Each of them is made up differently, experts say,
some with semi-independent cells and others with top-down leadership

Some of those following Mexico's cartels–which include the
Tijuana Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel, the Gulf Cartel and the Beltran
Leyva Cartel, among others—have begun acknowledging that the cartels
are something else entirely.

"The term drug cartel is inaccurate and improperly used by media,
based exclusively on strict economic fundamental theory,'' Rodolfo
Sosa-Garcia, a Mexican economist at Galilei Consulting, wrote me
recently. He urged reporters to pick a more accurate term, such as
"narco-producer, '' which he said would prompt governments and
international financial institutions to follow suit.

The Congressional Research Service, in a report on Mexico released last
week in Washington, remarked: "The term drug cartel remains the term
used colloquially and in the press, but some experts disagree with this
because `cartel' often refers to price-setting groups and it is
not clear that Mexican drug cartels are setting illegal drug

Most trace the use of the term to Colombia, where the two main drug
cartels were named after the cities in which they operated, Cali and

George W. Grayson, a professor at the College of William & Mary in
Virginia who follows Mexico's drug war, said the term made some
sense in Mexico in the 1970s when Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, who was
known as The Godfather, ruled the drug world in the Mexican state of
Sinaloa, without considerable opposition. Mr. Felix Gallardo was jailed
in 1989 and he began doling out his turf from behind bars, resulting in
a fragmentation in what had been a cohesive cartel.

http://economix. blogs.nytimes. com/2009/ 09/21/drug- wars-when- a-cartel- rea\

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