Skip to Content

The difference between the Cartel and Mafia- (All you need to know)

The difference between the Cartel and Mafia- (All you need to know)

The Mafia is a Sicilian criminal gang or a group of people dealing in illegal activities. A cartel is a group of businesses or nations that band together to limit competition in a specific industry or market.

Cartels are more focused on narcotics smuggling and typically originate in countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, and others. The mafia originated in Sicily and moved to America, where it concentrated on taking over businesses, extortion, and other illegal activities.

Although the Mafia and Cartel are two different gangs involved in the same types of activities such as smuggling, drug abuse, and other criminal activities, Thus, to know the differences between both the gangs, you need to read till the end. Because I will be discussing all the similarities and distinguishing characteristics between the two groups.

How do you differentiate between a Cartel and a Mafia?

A mafia is a criminal enterprise, whereas a cartel is a group of businesses or nations that band together to limit competition in a particular industry or market.

Perhaps by capitalizing the first letter of the word. The Mafia may be ethnically focused on Italians or Sicilians, but the term “mafia” is also used interchangeably to refer to the Mexican mafia, the Amazonian mafia, or the Russian mafia.

Cartels are a group of criminals who increase profits in illegal markets by coming together on a single platform. The term “cartel” can be used to replace “Sicilian”, but these are the people involved in criminal activities, not narcotics.

These are some of the main differences that lead us to learn about the cartels and mafia.

Cartel Vs. Mafia

A cartel is simply a grouping of entities with similar interests and goals. As a result, you have an oil cartel made up of oil-exporting countries, which is perfectly legal. Mafia is a proper noun with another type of cartel, but this time it is a Sicilian group that uses Illegal methods and tactics to achieve its goals.

Both are cartels; one is a specific cartel that is, at its core, illegal, while the other is entirely legal.


Cartels transport drugs and engage in human trafficking. The Mafia is involved in everything illegal except drug trafficking; they do not engage in human trafficking, but they do employ prostitutes in their strip clubs. Mafia also makes money in traditional ways such as loan sharking, illegal gambling, and sports betting.

Cartels are more focused on narcotics smuggling and typically originate in countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, and others. On the other hand, the mafia originated in Sicily and spread to America, where it specialized in taking over businesses, extortion, and other illegal activities.

They are immensely different, aren’t they?

All the criminal gangs are differentiated in this video

What do you know about Cartels?

Cartels sell drugs and murder people. Mexican, Columbian, and so on.

A cartel is not considered a “family” in the same way that the mafia is. They have employees, but they do not work in the same way. You don’t have to be Italian to be a “made man.” There are numerous reasons for this, but space does not permit me to list them all.

All in all, Cartels are involved in illegal activities by doing misuse of power and money.

What is Mafia

The Mafia is a Sicilian organization that began as a form of resistance against the occupying French Army. The term “Mafia” implies that organized crime is primarily carried out by Italians. “Dutch” Schultz, Meyer Lansky, Moe Green, “Bugsy” Siegel, and “Whitey” Bulger are not included.

Mafia members are Italians, for the most part. They also sell drugs and murder, but they initially avoided drugs due to the heat they bring.

The Mafia enjoys unions, gambling, extortion, pimping, fencing, and stealing goods. People believe they enjoy betting on horses, but in reality, a racehorse that burns to death in a barn will bring far more insurance money than race winnings.

This is not just their belief but a faith.

A person looking like a robber with a pistol in hand
Mafia involves political parties and thieves too

The American mafia or the Sinaloa cartel, which one is more powerful?

It is important to note that there is no single American mafia, but rather a collection of crime families that comprise the American mafia. They vary in size and power, with some being more powerful than others.

In this day and age, the Sinaloa cartel would have to be more powerful than all of them. They, like other Mexican drug cartels, have ex-military personnel who are highly trained in combat. These elements are not known to exist in the American mafia, or if they do exist, they are to a much lesser extent.

The American mafia is a shadow of what it once was. Over the last 30 years, law enforcement has taken a beating. It no longer can murder at will, which was once the most important power of organized criminal gangs.

The Sinaloa cartel is powerful enough to pose a threat to the government in the Mexican states where it operates. It can kill at will. It has far more clout than the American mafia.

Both the Mafia and the Sinaloa Cartel wield considerable power in their respective home countries. It’s difficult to say who is powerful because of the geological locations and political systems. The Mafia has a lot of political clouts; they have legislators, senators, and judges on their side.

Thus, since both of these criminal organizations don’t compete with each other, it is quite difficult to differentiate them based on power.

Illegal weapons are represented in this image
Weapons are also smuggled and stored at different undercover sites

How do you differentiate between a gang and Mafia?

These are some main differences between the two:

  • Mafia is a crime syndicate made up primarily of members of an extended family with a clear hierarchy and control.
  • The Mafia is more powerful than gangs with connections to powerful officials.
  • The Mafia has a family structure that gangs do not have.
  • Gangs are known to engage in petty crimes, whereas the mafia is known to engage in drug trafficking and extortion.

A gang refers to a small group of people engaged in crimes while Mafia is highly standardized, although both these groups perform illegal activities such as murder extortion and misuse of power etc.

The only thing these two entities have in common is that without them, media would be unable to create movies and entertainment. It’s a compulsion for violence to produce material. It is not necessary to be a part of either to be a criminal.

Thus, many people do crimes, even not being a part of such gangs or the Mafia. They perform these illegal tasks individually and willingly.

A difference between a Cartel and a Mafia

The names of the richest crime organizations and gangsters are given below:

Richest crime organizationsThe richest gangsters of all time
The Medellin Cartel Amado Carrillo Fuentes
The TriadsPablo Escobar
Solntsevskaya BratvaJoseph Kennedy
Yamaguchi-GumiMeyer Lansky
Ndrangheta Carlos Lehder
Sinaloa Cartel Frank Lucas
List of crime organizations and gangsters

Who is the more dangerous and powerful, a large drug cartel or the mafia?

The Mafia is the more dangerous one, it encounters you and you are no more single-handedly fine.

The cartels appear to enjoy spreading terrorism by publicly videotaping beheadings and flaying live people.
Although there is a difference of opinion, some people say that Cartels pose a greater threat than the mafia. Cartels will go find a target to kill, and if the order is to make the target disappear, they will do so.

To intimidate those who are the target’s immediate family, the cartels will cut the target into pieces and scatter the target’s body all over the street. The Mafia will kidnap you, then use a block or something heavy to throw you in the river or bury the target in the desert.

The Mafia was, by all accounts, a small organization in terms of membership. They had money, without a doubt, but not the kind the cartels had. It’s ridiculous how much more money the Cartels have.

In my opinion, mafias and cartels are equally dangerous. The enforcement of the law determines their power. If taken into action, none of them remains intact.

Which Cartel is the most powerful?

According to the US Intelligence Community, the Sinaloa Cartel is the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the Western Hemisphere, possibly even more powerful and capable than Colombia’s infamous Medellin Cartel during its peak.

The gun powder and bullets display Cartel
The Cartels smuggle narcotics

Which Mafia is the strongest?

Luciano rose to become the most powerful Mafia boss in America, running a major corporation known as La Cosa Nostra. It sided Maranzano from its way.  Luciano established the “Commission” to oversee all La Cosa Nostra activities.

Hence the Strongest Mafia are Genovese, Luciano, and Costello.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, Mafia and the Cartel are two different groups dealing with illegal activities. Although some of the activities are the same, they differ in their standardization. Mafia seems to be a crime syndicate that might have a political leader involved in it. While a cartel refers to a combination of a few political groups who come together for a single cause, which may include various political parties.

A cartel mostly films the activities of people, plays a slow goal, and then terrorizes the victims. They take their time before being called into action. But a Mafia involves direct action, they threaten and attach there, and then, they don’t wait for ifs and buts.

Thus, both of these organizations are quite powerful, yet not more powerful than the government officials. If taken into action, the laws and judicial might look forward to eradicating these groups and normalizing a common man’s army.

Other Articles

Click here to preview the web story version of this article.