By David P Beiter

Date:     Tue Aug 27, 1996  1:11 pm  CST
From:     Peter Montague
	  EMS: INTERNET / MCI ID: 376-5414
	  MBX: peter@rachel.clark.net

TO:       rachel weekly
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	  MBX: rachel-weekly@world.std.com
BCC:    * David Beiter / MCI ID: 635-1762
Subject:  Rachel #509: America's Secret War

=======================Electronic Edition========================
.                                                               .
.           RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY #509           .
.                     ---August 29, 1996---                     .
.                          HEADLINES:                           .
.                     AMERICA'S SECRET WAR                      .
.                          ==========                           .
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Recently eight high-school students, members of the Baltimore
Environmental Justice Project, visited us.  Over a brown-bag
lunch, we asked what environmental problem they considered
biggest or worst. Without hesitation, they said drugs, especially
crack cocaine.

Homeless addicts, crack babies, drive-by-shootings, gangs,
burglaries, robberies, muggings, black-on-black youth violence.
Where did this scourge come from?

The twin centers of the crack cocaine industry are Los Angeles
and Miami.  The first time the MIAMI HERALD ever mentioned crack
cocaine was April 20, 1986.[1]  The first time the LOS ANGELES
TIMES ever mentioned crack cocaine was two months later on June
30, 1986.[2]  The news service Facts on File first mentioned
crack on August 15, 1986, under the headline, "'Crack' Explosion
Alarms Nation."[3]  That story said crack had been around for "as
long as 3 years, but its use was said to have exploded in the
last months of 1985 and the first half of 1986."  From these
sources, we conclude that crack first appeared about 1983 and
began spreading quickly; by mid-1986, it was a nationwide
problem.  What happened between 1983 and 1986?

Cocaine had been around as a sniffable white powder since the
mid-1970s, but it cost $200 a gram ($5600 an ounce) providing
recreation for the rich, not  for working people.  But by 1986
that had changed.  The MIAMI HERALD wrote April 20, 1986,
"Described until recently as a rich man's drug, cocaine has
filtered down to blue-collar households and is finding an eager
market among high school students who can ante up $10 or so to
buy some 'crack,' cocaine in a highly purified form suitable for
free-basing [smoking]."[1]  The LOS ANGELES TIMES wrote September
21, 1986, "The economics of cocaine have changed so radically
that it is no longer restricted to the well-to-do.  The
processing of crystallized cocaine as 'rock' or 'crack' has so
lowered the price--and increased the availability--that junior
high school students are pooling their lunch money... to buy
cocaine from schoolyard dealers."[4]  How did crack spread
throughout urban neighborhoods during 1983-1986?

The story begins in Nicaragua.  In 1979, the "Sandanistas" --a
left-wing revolutionary army --defeated the U.S.-trained army of
dictator Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua.  Less than two years
later, according to the WASHINGTON POST (March 10, 1982), on
November 16, 1981, CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] Director
William Casey proposed to President Reagan that he approve $19
million for the CIA to organize a counter-revolutionary force to
overthrow the leftist Sandanista government.[5]  The POST
reported that President Reagan accepted Casey's proposal and
authorized the CIA to finance and train a paramilitary commando
force to provoke a counter-revolution in Nicaragua.  According to
TIME magazine, throughout 1982 the CIA rallied anti-Sandanista
military forces, creating bases of operation in Honduras, on
Nicaragua's border.[6]  This became known as Ronald Reagan's
"secret war," but it wasn't much of a secret.  In fact, it was so
public that on December 8, 1982, the U.S. House of
Representatives unanimously passed the "Boland Amendment" to the
1983 military appropriations bill stating that none of the
appropriated defense funds could be used to "train, arm, or
support persons not members of the regular army for the purpose
of overthrowing the government of Nicaragua."[5]  This amendment
made it illegal for the CIA to continue funding its
anti-Sandanista army, which by then was calling itself the FDN
(Nicaraguan Democratic Forces), but was better known as the

After passage of the Boland amendment, the Contras desperately
needed a new source of funds.  (This was several years before
Oliver North set up his Iran connection to divert money from arms
sales to the Contras.) According to a year-long investigation by
the SAN JOSE (California) MERCURY NEWS based on court records,
recently declassified documents, undercover audio tapes, and
files retrieved via the Freedom of Information Act, the FDN
solved its problem by opening the first pipeline from the
Colombian cocaine cartels to black gangs --the Crips and the
Bloods --on the streets of Los Angeles.[7]

The MERCURY NEWS investigation highlights three individuals in
particular: Danilo Blandon, Norwin Meneses, and Ricky Ross.

At Ricky Ross's drug trial in San Diego in March, 1996, the U.S.
Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) star witness was Danilo
Blandon, telling his story for the first time.  Blandon was the
son of a wealthy Nicaraguan family who fled from Nicaragua to Los
Angeles on June 19, 1979, at age 29, just as the Somoza
dictatorship collapsed.  His family's ranches and real estate
holdings in Managua, and his wife's substantial wealth, were
confiscated by the Sandanista government.  The Blandons worked in
Los Angeles to build an anti-Sandanista movement, holding rallies
and cocktail parties, but Blandon testified that their efforts
raised little money.  The trial record shows that, in 1981,
Blandon was introduced to Norwin Meneses, another Nicaraguan
living in California.  With Meneses, Blandon flew to Honduras
where they were introduced to the military chief of the CIA's
Contra army, Enrique Bermudez.  According to the MERCURY NEWS,
"Bermudez was hired by the Central Intelligence Agency in
mid-1980" to create the FDN.  The MERCURY NEWS says, "Bermudez
was the FDN's military chief and, according to congressional
records and newspaper reports, received regular CIA paychecks for
a decade, payments that stopped shortly before his still-unsolved
slaying in Managua in 1991."  (The Contra-Sandanista war ended in
1988.)  After meeting with the CIA's Bermudez, Blandon testified
in court, he and Meneses started raising money for the Contra
revolution by selling drugs in L.A.

Blandon's partner, Norwin Meneses, was known in Nicaragua as "Rey
de la Droga" (King of Drugs).  In 1979, Meneses was under active
investigation by the DEA and by the FBI for selling drugs in the
U.S. According to the MERCURY NEWS, "despite a stack of law
enforcement reports describing him as a major drug trafficker,
Norwin Meneses was welcomed into the U.S. in July 1979 as a
political refugee and given a visa and a work permit.  He settled
in the Bay Area and for the next six years supervised the
importation of thousands of kilos of cocaine into California."
(A kilo, or kilogram, weighs 2.2 pounds.)  Meneses supplied
Blandon with tons of cocaine and with assault weapons, which
Blandon sold to young blacks in L.A.  Blandon's profits went back
to Honduras and Nicaragua, to support the CIA's Contra army.
There seems little doubt that the CIA cooperated  in Blandon's
operation.  Indeed, NEWSWEEK magazine on two occasions printed
interviews and other evidence indicating that the CIA and the DEA
both cooperated in the Contras' guns-and-drugs pipeline.
(NEWSWEEK 1/26/87, pg. 26, and 5/23/88, pg. 22; and see
WASHINGTON POST 1/20/87, pg. A12.)  The MERCURY NEWS has now
provided additional confirming evidence.

Blandon didn't really know what he was doing until he met Ricky
Ross, a small-time African-American drug dealer.  Because Blandon
could supply limitless amounts of cocaine at rock-bottom prices,
Ross began to build an enormous drug empire.  When methods for
turning cocaine into crack became known in 1983, Ross already had
a drug-dealing network in place. Norwin Meneses routinely shipped
200-to-400-kilo quantities of cocaine from Miami to Blandon on
the west coast, who sold them to Ross.  Ross had 5 "cook houses"
turning cocaine into crack.  A former crack dealer described for
the MERCURY NEWS one of Ross's cook houses where huge steel vats
of cocaine were being stirred with canoe paddles atop
restaurant-sized gas ranges.  At his recent drug trial, Ross
testified that it was not unusual to take in between $2 and $3
million a day. "Our biggest problem had got to be counting the
money," Ross testified. Blandon told the DEA last year that
during 1983 and 1984 he supplied Ross with 100 kilos a week.  As
this crack flooded into the streets of L.A., the gangs, chiefly
the Crips and the Bloods, set up a national distribution network,
and crack cascaded across the country into black neighborhoods
everywhere, offering a cheap vacation from the miseries of ghetto
life.  For $20, anyone could get wasted.  The gangs themselves
were immensely strengthened by the money, guns, and connections
that the crack business brought them.  And of course the CIA's
army got the millions it needed to keep alive Ronald Reagan's
secret war.

Today Ricky Ross is facing life in federal prison without the
possibility of parole.  Danilo Blandon is free, working as an
informant for the DEA.  Norwin Meneses has never spent a day in a
U.S. prison. Although he figured in 45 separate federal
investigations, he openly supplied Ricky Ross's crack empire from
his home in the Bay area, and was never touched by the law.  He
has since moved back to Nicaragua.

According to the MERCURY NEWS, agents of four law enforcement
agencies --DEA, U.S. Customs, the L.A. County Sheriff's Office,
and the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement --say their
investigations into Ross's empire were thwarted by the CIA or by
unnamed "national security" interests.

The rise of the crack industry has had lasting effects on
communities across America.  In 1980, one out of every 453
Americans was incarcerated.  By 1993, one out of every 189
Americans was incarcerated.  Between 1980 and 1993, the U.S.
prison population tripled (from 329,821 to 1,053,738).[8]

But not just anyone went to jail.  Crack is a poor person's drug;
powder cocaine remains a recreation of the rich.  Congress and 14
states passed laws making penalties for crack up to 100 times as
great as penalties for powder cocaine.  As a result, blacks were
much more likely to go to jail, and for longer periods, than
whites.  In 1993 blacks were seven times more likely to be
incarcerated than whites; an estimated 1471 blacks per 100,000
black residents vs. 207 whites per 100,000 white residents were
imprisoned at the end of 1993.[8]

Prisons are now the fastest-growing item in almost all state
budgets. California spends more on prisons than it does on
colleges and universities. (NY TIMES 6/2/96, p. 16E)  Former
defense contractors are now getting into the lucrative
incarceration business. (NY TIMES August 23, 1996, pg. B1.)
Almost three quarters of new admissions to prisons are now
African-American or Hispanic.  If present trends continue for
another 14 years, an absolute majority of African-American males
between the ages of 18 and 40 will be in prison or in detention
camps. (NY TIMES 8/10/95, pg. A14.)  A secret war indeed.
						--Peter Montague
		(National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)

[1] Bruce Goldman, "Cocaine: The Powder That Corrupts," MIAMI
HERALD April 20, 1986, pg. 10G.

[2] Scott Ostler, "Sudden Death Has New Meaning," LOS ANGELES
TIMES June 30, 1986, Section 3 (Sports), pg. 3.  Ostler writes,
"...the new rage in the drug world is crack cocaine, which is
smokeable coke.  It is cheap, plentiful, and intensively

[3] "'Crack' Explosion Alarms Nation," FACTS ON FILE WORLD NEWS
DIGEST August 15, 1986, pg. 600F3.

[4] Bill Farr and Carol McGraw, "Drug Enforcers Losing Nation's
Cocaine War; Massive Government Eradication Efforts are
'Overwhelmed by the Bad Guys,' Official Says," LOS ANGELES TIMES
September 21, 1986, pg. 1.

[5] "U.S. Shows Photos to Prove Nicaragua Buildup; CIA-Trained
Commandos to Hit Economic Targets," FACTS ON FILE WORLD NEWS
DIGEST March 12, 1982, pg. 157A1, quoting the WASHINGTON POST of
March 10, 1982.

[6] George Russel, "Niacargua's Elusive War," TIME Vol. 121
(April 4, 1983), pgs. 34-35.

[7] Gary Webb, "'Crack' Plague's Roots Are in Nicaragua War;
Colombia-Bay Area Drug Pipeline Helped CIA-Backed Contras '80s
Efforts to Assist Guerillas Left Legacy of Drugs, Gangs in Black
L.A.," SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS August 18, 1996, pg. 1A;  Gary Webb,
"Testimony Links U.S. to Drugs-Guns Trade; Dealers Got 'Their Own
Little Arsenal,'" SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS August 18, 1996, pg. 17A.
Gary Webb, "Odd Trio Created Mass Market for 'Crack'; L.A.
Dealer Might Get Life; Officials Quiet About Role of
Nicaraguans," SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS August 19, 1996, pg. 1A.
And: Gary Webb, "S.F. Drug Agent Thought She Hit on Something
Big; As Trail Got Warm, Her Superiors Took Her Off the Case," SAN
JOSE MERCURY NEWS August 19, 1996, pg. 10A.

[8] Allen J. Beck and Darrell K. Gilliard, "Prisoners in 1994,"
pgs. 1-13.

Descriptor terms:  cocaine; crack; drugs; crime; violence; race;
african americans; criminal justice; prisons; gangs; california;
nicaragua; los angeles; miami; florida; contras; anastasio
somoza; cia; dea; drug enforcement administration; inner cities;
urban life; hispanics; statistics; central intelligence agency;
colombia; sandanistas;

Environmental Research Foundation provides this electronic
version of RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY free of charge
even though it costs our organization considerable time and
money to produce it.  We would like to continue to provide this
service free.  You could help by making a tax-deductible
contribution (anything you can afford, whether $5.00 or
$500.00).  Please send your contribution to: Environmental
Research Foundation, P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403-7036.
					--Peter Montague, Editor


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