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Drug cartels are composed of independent drugtrafficking organizations that have pooled their resources and elected to cooperate with each other. They are often incorrectly conceived of as single, organized crime groups with thousands of members, wide geographical scope, and vertical control of the drug business from the point of harvest to the point of retail sales on the streets. To the contrary, the cartels are merely associations of many smaller organized crime groups into a loose confederation of business associates. Some of the syndicates in a cartel may produce raw materials. Others may have well-established modalities for transportation. Still others may have money-laundering operations in place or important political and law enforcement connections to facilitate the creation of corrupt relations.

Drug-trafficking groups may decide to enter ...

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