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Clash of the Cartels – revealing the global organised crime networks that exist right under your nose

Clash of the Cartels – revealing the global organised crime networks that exist right under your nose
Daily Maverick journalist and author Caryn Dolley. | Journalist and author Mandy Wiener. (Photos: Supplied)

Author and journalist Caryn Dolley’s latest book, Clash of the Cartels, traces drug trafficking networks across the world - and how they overlap in South Africa. The book was launched on Wednesday.

Caryn Dolley hopes that her new book about global drug trafficking networks that operate in South Africa makes a reader understand what is going on under their noses. 

On Wednesday, 9 November, her latest release, Clash of the Cartels: Unmasking the global drug kingpins stalking South Africa, was the topic of a Daily Maverick webinar hosted by Dolley in conversation with crime journalist and author Mandy Wiener. 


This is Dolley’s third book, following The Enforcers – Inside Cape Town’s Deadly Nightclub Battles, released in 2019, and To The Wolves: How Traitor Cops Crafted South Africa’s Underworld, released in 2021. The book was published at the end of October. Planned book launch events were cancelled due to safety concerns. 

When asked by Wiener about what prompted the book, Dolley said she had started looking at drug trafficking cartels, which led to her mapping how these cartels overlap in South Africa. “Serbia took a lot out of me,” she said about the contents of the specific chapter, which mingles gangsterism and politics. She described this chapter as “meaty”. Other organised crime networks she mentioned in the book are found in Brazil, Italy, the United States, India and Afghanistan. 

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While chapters of the book focus on countries and cartels, the book delves into characters. “Several of them in South Africa. Some of them call South Africa home,” said Dolley. 

One of them is Nelson Pablo Yester-Garrido, a Cuban national who lived in South Africa and used to run a dagga distribution network from the country. Dolley wrote about him extensively in Daily Maverick’s DM168 print publication and realised she had a lot of information about him – which went into the book. When Weiner asked what an entry point to the book was, she pointed to Yester-Garrido, featured in the introduction of the book.

Read an extract of the book here: Clash of the Cartels by Caryn Dolley: Tracing the footprints of drug kingpins

“It’s about illicit economies,” said Dolley. In relation to the gangs, drug networks and violence, Dolley said “it’s not this regional issue”. She explained that the country was in the clutches of global organised crime. Dolley said while gangs overlap in the country, there are gang clashes and intragang fights too.

“If there is infighting, there is violence,” she said, as there were Serbian, Brazilian and Italian organised crime gangs working together. 

But a big problem was law enforcement – with several allegations that law enforcement officials are complicit in organised crime, which made honest policemen’s workloads harder. “It infuriates me,” she said in reference to news that drugs have disappeared from police stations where those drugs are supposed to be under the watchful eye of the police. 

But this stretches further than police, and widens to politicians. “You always get that person who is supported by this person who is in that party,” she said. 

Dolley would also add that there were smear campaigns against “people who are doing good”. 

Asked what she wanted to achieve with this book, Dolley said she wanted people to understand what’s going, so that people understood “a simple murder is not just a simple murder”, she said. 

So what’s next for Dolley? Is she planning another book and, if so, about what?  

“I don’t choose; it always chooses me,” she responded. DM

Caryn Dolley has spent years tracing the footprints of drug kingpins from across the world. In her latest book, Clash of the Cartels, Dolley provides unprecedented insight into how specific drug cartels and syndicates have operated via South Africa, becoming embroiled in deadly violence in the country and bolstering local criminal networks. Available from the Daily Maverick Shop here.


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