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Washington Post Examines Structure of Cali Cartel


April 1995

A recent series in The Washington Post looks at the structure of the Cali cartel distribution points in the U.S. (Jim McGee, "Drug Smuggling Industry is Built on Franchises," Washington Post, Mar. 26, 1995, p. 1; Jim McGee, "Violent Streak Raises Cali Cartel's U.S. Profile," Washington Post, Mar. 27, 1995, p. 1; Jim McGee, "Cartel-Related Probe Focuses on D.C. Law Firm," Washington Post, Mar. 28, 1995, p. 1).

The articles describe how Colombian Cali cartel managers used legitimate business franchises as models for distribution centers. Distribution "cells" in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York were set up and franchised to contacts in the states. If the heat of law enforcement became too strong, Colombian managers would finance legal counsel or arrange to shuttle cell workers into hiding in Colombia.

More and more, violence is becoming a part of everyday business in the Cali cartel and its distribution cells, according to the series. While the Cali cartel used to pride itself on being much less violent than the Medellin cartel, leaders found that as the organization grew, violence was a necessary way of doing business in the United States.