Sunday, August 18th, 1996
Gary Webb, San Jose Mercury News
Aug 18, 1996
FOR THE BETTER PART of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found.
This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia’s cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the “crack” capital of the world. The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America … and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.’s gangs to buy automatic weapons.
It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history: the union of a U.S.-backed army attempting to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi-toting “gangstas” of Compton and South-Central Los Angeles.
The army’s financiers — who met with CIA agents both before and during the time they were selling the drugs in L.A. — delivered cut-rate cocaine to the gangs through a young South-Central crack dealer named Ricky Donnell Ross.
Unaware of his suppliers’ military and political connections, “Freeway Rick” — a dope dealer of mythic proportions in the L.A. drug world — turned the cocaine powder into crack and wholesaled it to gangs across the country.
The cash Ross paid for the cocaine, court records show, was then used to buy weapons and equipment for a guerrilla army named the Fuerza Democratica Nicaraguense (Nicaraguan Democratic Force) or FDN, the largest of several anti-communist commonly called the Contras.
While the FDN’s war is barely a memory today, black America is still dealing with its poisonous side effects. Urban neighborhoods are grappling with legions of homeless crack addicts. Thousands of young black men are serving long prison sentences for selling cocaine — a drug that was virtually unobtainable in black neighborhoods before members of the CIA’s army started bringing it into South-Central in the 1980s at bargain-basement prices.
And the L.A. gangs, which used their enormous cocaine profits to arm themselves and spread crack across the country, are still thriving, turning entire blocks of major cities into occasional war zones.