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Cali Cartel Consolidates Hold on International Cocaine Trade


April 1993

Colombia's Cali cartel has quietly asserted dominance over the global cocaine trade, supplanting the once-powerful Medellin cartel which now founders in disarray (Douglas Farah, "Colombian Drug Flow Unabated: Cali-Based Cartel Supplants Medellin," Washington Post, 3/9/93, A14).

Unlike the Medellin cartel, the Cali cartel operates in a nonconfrontational and largely nonviolent manner, although it has been known to eliminate specific enemies. The use of nonspecific terrorist acts that harm innocent bystanders, which became the hallmark, and ultimately the downfall, of the Medellin group has not been the approach of the Cali group.

When Medellin leader Pablo Escobar launched his terror campaign against the state in 1989, the Cali cartel controlled only about 25 percent of the world cocaine trade. Now, officials say, the cartel controls roughly 85 percent of the global cocaine trade and is further expanding its market.