This article from America Magazine is a good description of the practice of the professional criminal working within a criminal organization.

An excerpt.

First and most important is to think business and not crime,” he tells me. “The Zetas and members of the other drug corporations commit crimes—lots of them—but their raison d’etre is to make money, the same as any other business. And they want to do it as efficiently as possible.”

As he spoke, Gonzalo Osorio twitched his shoulders and patted his more than ample paunch. His real name, he cautioned, “might not be” Gonzalo Osorio. In contemporary Oaxaca one takes care to not reveal too many personal details. His connections with the Zetas were “peripheral”—how peripheral he wasn’t willing to elaborate—but he’d had dealings with some of them and knew what he could and couldn’t say.

“So thinking ‘business not crime’ in order to understand what is happening in southern Mexico, one focuses on the product. The product is drugs—cocaine, marijuana. Like pulpwood, like strawberries, like cotton, it originates with the soil—a farm product. One can’t grow oranges in Canada or oak trees in the Sahara: You have to grow them where they grow best, verdad?

“Adormidera [the poppy], marijuana, grow best in Mexico. Colombia. Peru. So in those places you grow them. Then what? The locals buy what you harvest? Maybe a little, but business—everybody knows this—responds to demand. The demand comes first, then the supply,” he explains. “One could grow begonias, prickly pears, pine nuts instead, but….

“See, this is where business comes in. The Zetas are not farmers, they’re wholesalers. That’s their business. Very profitable. Like any wholesalers, they have to get their product to consumers.

“Where are the consumers? In Oaxaca? In Mexico City? Pues, unos pocos. But remember demand; demand comes first. The demand is in the U.S. So it is the job of the wholesalers to get the product from the farmers to the United States.

“Now we’re talking business here, demand and supply, not legal/illegal. Business has no morals. You spend US $100 on a whore, you spend $100 on a Communion service; either way it’s a transaction—you get what you pay for.” The consumers creating the demand want the product and they have the cash to buy it, he says, like in a normal market.”

“But in this case the product is illegal,” Osorio says, “so you can’t do your business like Walmart out in the open, you have to do it in the shadows. You have to organize, really organize, or the cops will steal your product. Or another wholesaler will steal it.” In those situations, the Zeta wholesalers can’t exactly take their grievances to the police. “So you have to become your own law and order. Like any business, eliminate the competition.”

Retrieved May 4, 2014 from