The Ghost Cartels are the direct descendants of the cocaine and marijuana drug cartels of the Andes nations of South America, particularly those of Colombia. Syndicates whose lineage traces back in some cases over 100 years ago to the drug syndicates which emerged in the international drug trade in the 1960s with the production and trafficking of marijuana. Which would join the ranks of the major crime syndicates with the cocaine boom from the late 1970s thru the mid 1990s.
When Ortega (Medellin Cartel), Julio Ramos (David Cartel), and Diego Oriz (Masaya Cartel) formed the ORO Corporation, what would later become Aztechnology, they became the three largest drug cartels in Mexico. Armed with legitimacy, they forced the remaining cartels: Olaya, Andes, Cachoeira and Morales into the shadows -- these four became known as the Ghost Cartels.
Number of Cartels: dozens
Annual Revenue: Billions (nuyen)
In the 20th century, the narcotrafficantes (powerful drug cartels of South and Central America) dominated the Western Hemisphere's illicit drug business. They owned the countries where they had operations, as the local governments were terrorized by the cartels. With cash flows equaling those of major corporations, they were their own countries. Cartel death squads and hit men brutally exterminated government officials who interfered with their business, resulting that few dared to oppose the cartels.
In the 1970s and 80s, La Corporacion (The Corporation) ledy by Roberto Suárez Goméz was a drug cartel based in Bolivia which was at the time the largest producer of cocaine, earned over $450 million a year, financially backed the infamous "Cocaine Coup" of 1980 by generals and neo-fascists in Bolivia, and had a private army of 1,500. The drug lord Roberto Suárez Goméz was the inspiration for the fictional drug lord Alejandro Sosa in the movie Scarface.
In the 1980s, the greatly feared ultra violent Medellin Cartel led by Pablo Escobar was earning $22 billion a year from cocaine, with Escobar worth up to $30 billion. It's founding members had started out smuggling emeralds, cigarettes, electronics, and marijuana. Apart from Escobar several other cartel members were suspected billionaires; Gustavo de Jesús Gaviria Rivero (Escobar's cousin), José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha, Carlos Enrique Lehder Rivas, and the three Ochoa Vásquez brothers (Juan David, Fabio, and Jorge Luis). One of its
At the height of their power the cartel was supplying 96% of the cocaine to the United States and controlled 90% of the global cocaine market. For almost 20 years, it virtually took over Colombia. It was an organization which turned Medellin into the murder capital of the world with 6,000 homicides a year. They murdered over 4,000, including 1,000 Medellin cops and journalists, 200 Colombian government officials and judges, and the Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán.
When communist guerrillas began to target the family members of the cartel's founders for kidnapping for ransom and attempted to tax their landholdings, the Medellin cartel joined forces in 1982 with the wealthy cattle ranchers, small industrialists, the Colombian army, and the American corporation Texas Petroleum to finance, arm, and train a paramilitary force, Muerte a Secuestradores (MAS) the first death squad in Colombia. By 1983 it had performed 240 political killings (activists, farmers, community leaders, elected officials, etc). Starting in 1985, the Medellin cartel turned it into their private army. They financed the hiring of British, American, Israeli, and Australian mercenaries to train the men, armed them with the latest firearms, equipped them with computers, supplied them with helicopters and fixed winged aircraft, and established a communication center that coordinated with Colombia's telecommunications company.
In it's war with the government in Colombia, the cartel employed an army of teenage killers (sicarios), deployed hitmen on motorcycles, committed public assassinations and mass shootings, and waged a campaign of bombings. They would end up hiring their former enemies, the communist guerrillas of M-19 to storm the supreme court of Colombia in 1985 to destroy evidence. In the process killing 98 civilians including 12 of the 25 the top judges in Colombia before Colombian forces liberated the building. They also bombed the headquarters of the DAS (Administrative Department of Security) in 1989 with 500 kg of explosives killing 49 and wounding 600, 
One of its most feared hitmen was Brances Munoz (aka, Tyson), who led a well-equipped army of mercenaries which killed 1,000 in the late 1980s and early 1990, and was suspected in the bombing of the Avianca airliner killing 107 and blowing up a bus killing 67. His brother Dandeny Muñoz Mosquera (aka, La Quica) was another feared hitman, who killed over 220 including over 40 police officers and was convicted of the bombing of the Avianca airliner. Another feared hitman was John Jairo Velásquez (aka, Popeye) who personally killed over 300 and under his orders over 200 car bombs were detonated.
Later in the 1990s, it's rival the less violent and more sophisticated business-like Cali Cartel led by the billionaire Rodríguez Orejuela brothers (Gilberto Jose and Miguel Ángel) was by 1993 running a $30 billion a year drug empire. The cartel's drug lords referred to themselves as "Los Caballeros" (The Gentlemen of Cali). Other suspected billionaires in the cartel were José Santacruz Londoño and Francisco Hélmer Herrera Buitrago (one of the few gay men to rise to power in the underworld). The cartel's founders started out as marijuana smugglers. At its peak in the early to mid 1990s, it was supplying over 70-80% of the cocaine to the United States and 90% of Europe's cocaine. Unlike the Medellin cartel, it was also one of the world's major traffickers of heroin and during the 1990s Colombia became one of the world's primary producer of opium and heroin.   It was an organization that paid approximately $1 billion in bribes a year. The alliance of convenience between elements in the Colombian government and the Cali Cartel against the Medellin Cartel took on a life of its own, as the Cali cartel went on to continue financing the politicians and government officials, including millions for the campaign of president-elect Ernesto Samper. They nearly turned Colombia into a narco-democracy.
Unlike their ultra-violent rivals in Medellin, the cartel preferred to gather intelligence on its enemies, bribing government officials and law enforcement, and coordinating its activities by using state-of-the art telecommunications technology. It was a pioneer in the use of beepers, faxes, encryption, computer information systems, and cell phones. Their intelligence system rivaled the intelligence services of many nations. The cartel even had an IBM supercomputer. Running the cartel's intelligence was Jorge Salcedo of the Colombian military. They had people inside the state telecommunications company allowing them to listen to all phone lines in Cali and operated a communication center that coordinated with the telecom. He built a hidden radio network within Cali for their operatives. It had thousands of spies and informants in the government and in the city of Cali, including 5,000 taxi drivers in Cali. Earning themselves the nickname the "KGB of Cocaine". 
Like any corporation it kept detailed records of its business activities. New employees filled out application forms. The cartel gave its employees paid bonuses and holidays. All that paperwork would eventually contribute to their downfall. The cartel used a compartmentalized structure, consisting of cells which law enforcement found extremely difficult to penetrate, much less disrupt. Employees preferred to go to prison than talk since they feared what would happen to their families if they talked, and knew that the cartel would financially support their families while they were incarcerated. It formed alliances with criminal organizations in Mexico, Russia, Italy, Japan, and so on paving the way for the globalization of crime with the establishment of transnational criminal networks.
Though it shunned the type of violence used by the Medellin cartel, the Cali cartel used murder as a tool. Henry Loaiza-Ceballos (El Alacrán - The Scorpion) was the cartel's "Minister of War" who ordered that over 100 union sympathizers be murdered with chainsaws. When it was threatened by the communist guerrillas in the early 1980s and therefore participated alongside the Medellin cartel in the formation of the MAS death squad. Within Cali, it participated in the "social cleansing" of Cali, in which 100s of "desechables" (discardables) where murdered by social cleansing groups formed by the cartel and locals. Street children, prostitutes, homosexuals, petty thieves, and the homeless were among the victims. To wage war against the Medellin cartel in the early 1990s, they hired 30 British mercenaries. Later they formed a new death squad whose sole purpose was the destruction of the Medellin cartel and the death of Escobar, Los Pepes (Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar - Persecuted by Pablo Escobar) who killed at least 60 of his associates. 
Other major cartels in the 1980s-90s were the Bogota Cartel and the North Coast Cartel, though neither was anywhere near the league of Medellin and Cali. The Bogota Cartel was really good at purchasing police protection. It started out as a contraband smuggling organization which due to its contacts in the American underworld, especially those of the Meyer Lansky group in the Caribbean and Florida, entered the drug trade. They were a politically well-connected syndicate that kept a low profile. The North Atlantic Coast, was the smallest of the cartels and least cohesive too. Which started out as a marijuana smuggling organization, and graduated to providing the bigger cartels shipping services for a fixed-fee. Later it also provided them with money laundering services.
After the decline of the Medellin and Cali cartels, the Norte del Valle Cartel (North Valley Cartel) rose to prominence in the late 1990s. It was led by the Montoya brothers and was formed in 1990 by drug traffickers who refused to go along with the Cali cartel's founders plan to surrender to the Colombian government, give up the drug trade, and serve 5 years in prison in exchange for being permitted to keep their wealth. It employed the ultra-violent right-wing paramilitary United Self-Defenders of Colombia (AUC). In the mid-2000s it experienced an internal power struggle leading to a civil war in the cartel.
The reduction of the cocaine cartels' power and the fragmentation into smaller cartels led to the rise of the right-wing paramilitaries and communist guerrillas in the Colombian drug trade. The United Self-Defenders of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC) were founded in 1997 by the Castaño brothers (Carlos and Fidel) who had a burning hatred for communists. Under their leadership they would wage a war of terror against not only the communist insurgents but anyone they perceived to be their supporters, including those civilians who simply lived in areas controlled by the insurgents. The AUC had up to 30,000 fighters at its peak and was active in two-thirds of Colombia in the early to mid 2000s. It had killed 140,000 of which 1,000 were killed by their chief assassin, Hebert Veloza. The paramilitary force had the support of the security forces, the military, and the oligarchs of Colombia (landowners, miners, and industrialists). At the height of its power the AUC was suspected of controlling 40% of the Colombian drug trade, with up to 80% of its funding coming from the drug trade. They were earning $200 million a year from taxing drug producers, on top of what they earned from their own drug trafficking.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC) which was founded in 1964 by peasant guerrillas had at its peak had in the 2000s approximately 18,000 members, was active across much of Colombia, and the government had ceded a territory the size of Switzerland in the south as part of the peace talks process in the 1990s. During the 2000s it was earning $200-300 million a year (conservatively) and perhaps up to $1 billion a year from drug trafficking and taxing the drug trade. They had significant support among the peasants in the countryside and some support in the cities where it had urban guerilla cells.  By 2008, the United Nations had determined that right-wing paramilitaries were responsible for 80% of the deaths in the Colombian civil conflict (with leftist insurgents 12% and 8% the government).
In 2007, the three most powerful drug cartels (Medellin, David, and Masaya) formed the ORO corporation in Mexico, which would eventually become Aztechnology. Smaller cartels continued to exist independently of ORO and profit from the sales of illicit drugs. The establishment of Aztechnology would cut into their business, but it was the emergence of BTL chips which did the most damage to their business. It would severely cut into their profits, leading to a reduction in their power.
Then the government of Aztlan executed a crackdown on the drug cartels within its territory and as it expanded into Central America, many of the cartels were either crushed by Aztechnology or pushed out. These cartels were given the option of submitting to Aztechnology and "serve Aztlan" or be exterminated. Those cartels which survived retreated to strongholds in Brazil and Colombia. They fought to keep BTLs out of the territories under their control (South American and parts of Central America), and continued to sell their drugs where BTL wasn't yet widespread.
During this time, they invested in the legitimate businesses of South America. Their economic influence in South America gave them the ability to keep the young Amazonian government from crushing them after the Awakened army had overthrown the Brazilian government in 2034. They helped the new government stabilize Amazonia, gaining the favor of the new regime. Which permitted them to establish themselves on the outskirts of Amazonia, where they came to be known as the "Ghost Cartels". When the ghost cartels were backed into a corner by Aztechnology, it made them the most dangerous type of criminals. Barely hanging on with their only stronghold being the city of Bogota and with their backs to the wall, the cartels were willing to take risks that no one else would, including going deep into the Amazonian jungle, looking for Awakened drugs.
With their businesses coming under pressure from the David Cartel (insulated from competition in Aztlan) and the spread of BTL chips, the Ghost Cartels allied themselves with the governments of South America. They invested vast sums in the legitimate economies of Colombia, Brazil, and Ecuador therefore gaining much influence in those nations. When Amazonia was established they assisted the fledgling state by undermining it's neighbors, making them vulnerable to Amazonian invasion in exchange for certain benefits. The Ghost Cartels also assisted Amazonia economically and financed, trained, and armed their military. As a reward, Amazonia became a safe haven to them as long as they kept their HQ elsewhere, and accepted the fact that occasionally the government would interdict their operations for appearances sake.
In exchange for the Ghost Cartels paving the way for Amazonian expansion by undermining governments, they were permitted to take over some countries (e.g., Bolivia, Ecuador, and Paraguay) and run them as Amazonian client states. The cartels are permitted to operate more or less openly in these states (as long as their operations are environmentally "green"), while operating as an unaffiliated defensive barrier against Aztlan (and providing those countries with stable economies and much needed industry).
The World of the Ghost Cartels
The Ghost Cartels are a loosely affiliated network of dozens of criminal organizations, united by greed and profit. When one is taken down by the law, shadowrunners, or a rival syndicate one or more groups emerge to take its place. The dominant ones are the Big 4, but many of the smaller cartels (e.g. Castaneda group) are locally powerful.
Originally the Ghost Cartels whom were united in their hatred of the David Cartel, Aztechnology, and Aztlan put aside their business rivalries and bitter history to work together, establishing the Ghost Council. The head of each Ghost Cartel was a member and attended the summits or sent an underboss. The Ghost Council would decide on issues of importance to the Ghost Cartels or mediate disputes between Ghost Cartels.
In 2071 AD, near the end of the Tempo-Drug War, a strike team consisting of assets from Aztechnology and the David Cartel assassinated most of the members attending the Ghost Council summit. In the aftermath the Andes Cartel was able to persuade and coerce the other Ghost Cartels to continue their war against Aztechnology and the David Cartel despite the setbacks. Despite having a common foe, the Ghost Cartels do compete with each other in the drug trade and rackets, and have fought turf wars against each other (e.g. the Olaya and Andes Cartels in Bogota).
The Ghost Cartels (along with the Triads) are the kingpins of the drug trade when it comes to large-scale growing operations, with organizations such as the Kabul Maffiya being 2nd tier. As in massive operations with peasant slave-labor and swarms of drones, working the fields, teams of scientists that dream up new drug cocktails, entire communities of indentured workers who process and package the product, armies of mercs and thugs protecting it all, dedicated smuggling crews, and enough lawyers and payed for politicians to make even a dragon wary about getting involved.
Today, the focus of the Ghost Cartels is cocaine and the Awakened drugs. Within their home countries, they are also involved in the trafficking and sale of BTL chips, smuggling arms to insurgents, the smuggling of goods, prostitution, and protection rackets, though those operations are minor compared to their drug trafficking. The criminal empires of the Ghost Cartels extend across almost all of South America, from the northern city of Caracas in the north to the country of Argentina. Outside of South America, their smuggling networks extend globally as they form business relationships with syndicates elsewhere to supply them with illicit drugs, especially in North America and Europe though they also send product to Asia and Africa.
As the Ghost Cartels are culturally Latino, it means there is machismo in the organizations. Despite that being the case, women are accepted into the cartels though the great majority of the members continue to be men. A few of the women become successful within the cartels, and reach positions of leadership. Women appear to have more opportunity in the South American Cartels than they do in either the Mafia or the Yakuza.
As far back as the late 20th century, women played a role in the Colombian drug cartels. Some of them became major drug traffickers, though none became leaders or founders of the cartels. The first to make it big was Griselda Blanco (La Madrina or Black Widow), a high-level operative of the Medellin Cartel. She ran a drug trafficking operation in Miami, which distributed cocaine across the United States. At it's peak it was bringing in $80 million in cocaine a month into the United States. Griselda was infamous for running an ultra-violent organization. Her operations were primarily responsible for turning Miami into a corrupt and lawless city in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She was responsible for 200 murders, some of which she committed herself. Griselda was a coke addict who was bisexual, participated in sex orgies, and forced men and women to have sex at gunpoint. She was estimated to be worth $2 billion.   
The Cali Cartel had its own highly successful female drug trafficker Mery Valencia (La Señora) who was a high-level operative of the Cali Cartel. She ran a drug trafficking operation in the United States in the 1980s-90s. Her organization employed many family members, was based in Miami, and earned $180 million annually from cocaine and heroin. It was more sophisticated than Griselda's operation and far more restrained when it came to violence.  A decade later, there was Angie Sanselmente Valencia, an independent drug trafficker. She was a beautiful lingerie model and beauty queen who ran an international drug syndicate which employed unsuspecting models in the late 2000s. 
Two-thirds of a century later, the successors to the cocaine cartels have continued to recruit, employ, and promote women. Some have reached the upper tiers of the Ghost Cartels. The individual who supplied the Olaya Cartel with tempo was a woman, Graciela Riveros. Currently the head of the most powerful Ghost Cartel and overall leader of the Ghost Cartels is also a woman, Maria Theresa Tamayo.
The Ghost Cartels accept metahumans into their organizations with comparatively minimal prejudice; unlike the Mafia or Yakuza, metahumans can reach most positions in the cartels, even extending to leadership roles. Some metas (primarily trolls and orks) serve as the elite personal bodyguards of the cartel heads, and dwarves have ascended to the very highest positions on multiple occasions: during the Tempo drug crisis, the Morales Cartel, one of the Big 4, was headed by the dwarf Angel Fuentes, and the current most powerful boss in the Ghost Cartels is the dwarf Maria Theresa Tamayo, head of the dominant Andes Cartel.
The Ghost Cartels are magic friendly crime syndicates. It employs within the personal bodyguards of the leaders, shamans and adepts. Men and women that are discrete, well-trained, and completely loyal to the cartels. The shamans are trained in defensive tactics and use of magic, and the adepts are specialists in defense and personal protection. Among the Ghost Cartels, the Cachoeria Cartel is a magic-heavy syndicate.
With their great wealth, the Ghost Cartels are able to afford some of the best augmented bodyguards outside of the megacorporations. These are men and women that like their magical colleagues are discrete, well-trained, and completely loyal to the cartels. The elite among the Ghost Cartel soldiers (e.g. bodyguards) have extensive augmentation which may include such things as radar sensors, muscle augmentations, wired reflexes, and muscle toner.
The Ghost Cartels have access to extensive military hardware plus military personnel. In South America, it is the Cartels who supply the weapons used by various national armies and insurgencies. In addition they arm the insurgencies in Peru, Argentina, and Paraguay.
The elite among the Ghost Cartel soldiers (e.g. bodyguards) are normally equipped with sub-machine guns and handguns. The cartels also recruit ex-soldiers from the Amazonian and Colombian armies.
External Alliances & Partnerships
The Ghost Cartels have had a relationship with the AA-rated megacorporation KondOrchid for a long time. Which is due to it actually being controlled by Jaime Salazar the head of the Olaya Cartel, and during the Tempo drug crisis it was used to smuggle Tempo all around the world.
South American Governments
As mentioned earlier, the Ghost Cartels have an alliance with the governments and military forces of both Amazonia and Bolivia. The armies of both Amazonia and Bolivia receive the majority of their weapons from the Cartels and in the case of Bolivia it is the cartels which trains its soldiers and provides them with recruits. They also act as their proxies supplying and financing the insurgencies.
Foreign Criminal Groups
The Ghost Cartels have established partnerships with other criminal organizations to assist them with their drug trafficking activities. These organizations include a variety of crime syndicates, gangs, smuggling rings, and pirates around the world. Some of these relationships have been around for a long time (e.g. the Jamaican Posses) and some of them are ad hoc (e.g. during the Tempo drug crisis). Among the major foreign crime syndicates which they have established business relationships with have been several Triads, one Yakuza clan, a couple Vory organizatsi, the Dutch Penose, the Albanian Fares, the Arabic Al-Akhirab Aswad Mayid, the Zobop, and the Milieu Marseillas.
Due to Colombia being the origin of a significant number of the Ghost Cartels and/or their leaders, they have been supporting the various insurgencies and policlubs operating in the former nation of Colombia. The aforementioned support is done with the eventual goal of expelling the invaders/occupiers from Aztlan and Amazonia, and restoring the independent nation of Colombia. One of the major policlubs receiving their support is the Great Colombian Policlub which was supported first by the Olaya Cartel and now the Andes Cartel.
Countries with Ghost Cartels
- Peru, Amazonia, Chile, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Ecuador, Caracas,
Major Ghost Cartels
- Colombian drug trade
- Cali Cartel
- Medellin Cartel
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- Underworld Sourcebook p.79
- Underworld Sourcebook p.79
- Underworld Sourcebook p.79
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- Vice p.84
- Vice p.87
- Ghost Cartels p.54
- Ghost Cartels p.114
- Vice p.137-138
- War! p.97
- Arsenal p.70
- Ghost Cartels p.54-55
- Vice p.88-92
- Sixth World Almanac p.207
- Vice p.87-92
- Ghost Cartels p.57
- Ghost Cartels p.120
- Ghost Cartels p.119
- Ghost Cartels p.157
- Ghost Cartels p.156-157
- Vice p.90
- Vice p.156
- Ghost Cartels p.156-157
- Vice p.89
- Ghost Cartels p.156-157
- Shadows of Latin America p.62
- Ghost Cartels p.29
- Ghost Cartels p.31-33
- Ghost Cartels p.35
- Ghost Cartels p.54-56
- Vice p.89
- Corporate Enclaves
- Ghost Cartels, 54-55, 57, 114, 137-138, 119-120
- Runner Havens
- Shadowrun Fourth Edition
- Sixth World Almanac, 171, 189, 206
- State of the Art: 2063
- State of the Art: 2064
- Target: Smuggler Havens
- Underworld Sourcebook, 79-80
- Vice, 83-92
- War!, 97
Colombian Cartels (Research)
- Wikipedia: Cali Cartel
- Wikipedia: Medellin Cartel
- Wikipedia: North Coast Cartel
- Lords of the Mafia, Episode 7, Colombian/Latin American Cartels