Drug cartels are highly organized criminal organizations that operates with the aim of promoting the trafficking of narcotics such as cocaine, heroin, and Indian hemp.
Historically, drug cartels developed from Latin American countries particularly Colombia and Mexico. Several factors have been attributed for this development. High rate of poverty and income inequality occasioned by corrupt governments combined with the proximity of the largest market for illicit drugs, the United States, and the fact that trade in narcotics is very lucrative, provided the impetus for drug-trafficking gangs to emerge in these countries. From the 1970s and onwards, the Medellin cartel and the Cali cartel rose up in Colombia as they devised ways to transport huge quantities of cocaine into the United States and made huge profits by so doing. Trafficking of narcotics from the Latin American nations was made possible by the fact that these nations are producers of hard drugs. Coca plantations occupy large tracts of land in Colombia even though they are illegal. As the drug cartels made profit, they increasingly were able to introduce more sophistication and organization in their activities and even afford to maintain private armies and have senior members of government and security agencies on their pay roll.
Drug cartels are highly organized, efficient and well run organizations and all these characteristics account for their incredible resilience in withstanding attempts by government forces to put them out of business. The basic structure of drug cartels consists of operational rungs of authority and responsibility. At the lowest level are the look-outs. Next are the lieutenants while the drug lords or barons occupy the highest rung of the ladder. The look-outs are responsible for monitoring the activities of the police and other government agents and reporting to higher authorities. The lieutenants control assigned territories on behalf of the drug lords and are permitted to carry out low-profile executions. The drug lords alone have the power to carry out high-profile executions of government officials or members of rival gangs.
Drug cartels have made great impact both in the host nations where these organizations operate from and in the countries where these drugs are trafficked to. Many obscure people from Latin American countries such as Mexico and Colombia have used drug trafficking to acquire stupendous wealth and in the process gain considerable political influence. But the most notable impact they have had is in the number of violent deaths that have been attributed to their activities. Wars between rival drug cartels and with government officials have claimed countless lives in these countries and the attendant violence even spills over into neighbouring countries such as from Mexico into the United States.