Brenda Paz, 16, was an informant on Mara Salvatrucha, aka MS-13 in the state of Virginia in the USA. She wanted to turn over a new leaf, but was found out and murdered in 2003 . Paz was stabbed, and her throat was slit. Brenda Paz was 4 months pregnant.
Anthony Haynes died in Brooklyn for a blue bandanna wrapped around his head, the symbol of his allegiance to the Crips, a street gang originally from LA. At age 12 in 2000, Anthony was one of the youngest victim of the bloody gang war that was raging in south Brooklyn New York.
Their stories served as a backdrop for my personal thoughts on the interconnectedness of our lives and the fact that we need to accept that everything we do has more impact than that we think it does.
" Very few men today comprehend the totally integrating significance of the 99 percent invisible activity which is coalescing to reshape our future "
The fight against cocaine in Florida.
Cocaine as a drug got popular in the 1970s and early 80's. The drug became particularly popular in the disco culture, as cocaine usage was very common and popular in many discos such as Studio 54. So much so, that Time magazine wrote about it as the drug of the high society. And with the demand so grew the supply.
The main point of access for the South American cartels was the state of Florida. Strategically located a few miles from the Caribbean and being within driving distance of the major east coast cities, it was the perfect place to set up shop.
As members of the drug trade made immense amounts of money, this money also attracted much violence to southern Florida.
Outraged by the drug trade's increasing violence in their city, Miami citizens lobbied the federal government for help. President Reagan responded by creating a cabinet-level task force, the Vice President's Task Force on South Florida. Headed by George Bush, it combined agents from the DEA, Customs, FBI, ATF, IRS, Army and Navy to fight drug traffickers. It proved to be a success for a small period of time.
This law enforcement pressure drove many major players out of the picture, and forced the South American cartels, which were not about to lose out on the most lucrative market for their product, to find an alternate route for the import of cocaine. They found their answer. And then some.
There are known known’s. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we don't know we don't know.
- Donald Rumsfeld -
Freeway Ricky, Crips and the fight against the Red Danger
The cold war was at it height in the 1980’s and the US involvement to stop communism from spreading as well. In it’s effort to fight communism the US got involved against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. And as it turned out to fund the fight, cocaine profits were used.
The CIA, to amass as much funds as possible for the fight, allegedly recruited dealers. And to raise the money needed fast, the dealers switched tactics.
First of all to get away from the police heat they set up shop on the West Coast of America. Using Mexico to smuggle their dope. And instead of selling to the people of Beverly Hills or other places similar to the customer base they had catered to in Florida, coke dealers started selling the drugs in the ghetto markets of L.A.'s.
What at the time might have seemed as a foolish strategy to apply turned out to be the start of the longest war in the history of the US. One the government and various defense agencies did not foresee and, in the end could not control.
According to his wikipedia entry Ricky Ross was: Born on May 3, 1960 in Troup Texas and as a young child moved to South Central Los Angeles with his mother. Originally interested in tennis, he pursued a scholarship while attending high school. His coach would later find out he was illiterate and removed him from the school. To make money, he turned to selling drugs to pay for tennis lessons. It was through Henry Corrales, a college friend, that Ross was introduced to cocaine. Through Corrales, Ross found a connection to purchase cheap Nicaraguan cocaine: two Nicaraguan exiles and alleged agency recruits Oscar Blandon and Norwin.
And what helped him become the biggest dealer on the West coast of the USA was that he had access to one of the biggest gangs of LA: the Crips. And the arrival of an epidemic.
The crack that let the genie out of the bottle
Right around the time that the Latin drugs dealers, who were preparing to sell the drugs on the west coast of the usa were setting up shop, street-level drug users were figuring out how to make cocaine affordable: by cooking the powdered form into little rocks that could be smoked: crack.
Nothing was the same afterwards. Cocaine smoked gives a high unmatched by 10 times as much snorted powder. A tiny amount was needed for the high, so the price for cocaine dropped so low that everybody could buy it. More addictive and less expensive. A dealers dream.
Within a year, Ross' drug operation grew to dominate inner-city Los Angeles, and many of the biggest dealers in town were his customers. When crack hit L.A.'s streets hard in late 1983, he was the man at the right place to capitalize on this epidemic. Which he did, with a little unintended stroke of fortune.
The urge of the freedom fighting dealers to get as much money as possible drove them to give Freeway Ricky (named so because he had a lot of property along highways), drugs on consignment and at bargain prices. This allowed Ross to undercut virtually every dealer he encountered and expand his empire with rapid speed.
His main points of distribution were the Crip gangs of LA. And so with his expansion and growing wealth so did theirs grow.
The Crips are a primarily, but not exclusively, African American gang founded in Los Angeles, California. What was once a single alliance between two autonomous gangs is now a loosely connected network of individual sets, often engaged in open warfare with one another.
The Crips are one of the largest and most violent associations of street gangs in the United States with an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 members. The gang is known to be involved in murders, robberies, and drug dealing, among many other criminal pursuits.
What had before had been a local gang fighting over blocks in LA, was turning into a drug army, able to buy heavier guns and increase the violence to heights unseen before. And to places that had never heard of the Crips (and their great rivals the Bloods), but now will not see the end of them.
The rise of MS-13 as an international force of mayhem
Any major alleged US government involvement with narcotics ended with the Iran Contra scandals of the late 80’s. What did not end was the smuggling of drugs via the Mexico route.
Up until the 1970’s Mexico was a place that people went to get soft drugs, mostly marijuana.
But as stated above, with the forced exile of dealers from Florida, Mexico became the primary route smuggle cocaine through. And with the fall of the major cartels in Colombia, the Mexican smugglers and their related gangs are becoming the ringleaders.
According to the LA Times: “ About 90% of the estimated 780 tons of cocaine entering the United States each year passes through the hands of Mexican drug traffickers, according to U.S. studies. Mexican traffickers see Central America as a natural hub between their Colombian suppliers and the smuggling routes the Mexicans control on the U.S. border. A war among competing cartels to control those routes, known as "plazas" in Mexico, led to more than 2,000 killings in 2007.U.S.
Officials said that Central American organized-crime groups, working with the Mexican and Colombian cartels under a subcontracting system, are reaping huge profits. That money, in turn, is fueling a crime wave, especially in Guatemala and El Salvador.” MS-13, by accident/luck, being one of the biggest actors and profiteers of this wave.
The MS-13 gang, aka Mara Salvatrucha 13, is one of the most dangerous gangs in the United States - and one of the most organized. Like many gangs, MS-13 was named after "La Mara", a street in El Salvador and "13th Street" in Los Angeles. The gang originated in El Salvador and initially consisted of violent guerillas that fought in El Salvador's civil war.
The Mara Salvatrucha gang moved into the Los Angeles area in the late 1980's as immigrants from El Salvador began arriving in the city. The early Los Angeles MS-13 gangs sought to protect El Salvadorian immigrants from the ruthless LA gangs. As with many gangs who's original intent was to protect others, the gang soon came to prey upon the Salvadorian community themselves.
In order to break up the gang the US installed a policy of deporting members to their home countries. But a deportation policy aimed in part at breaking up a Los Angeles street gang, backfired and helped spread it across Central America and back into other parts of the United States.
Newly organized cells in El Salvador have returned to establish strongholds in metropolitan Washington, D.C and other U.S. cities. Prisons in El Salvador have become nerve centers, authorities say, where deported leaders from Los Angeles communicate with gang cliques across the United States.
The lesson of the Iroquois
"In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation... even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine."
- Great Law of the Iroquois -
What was intended as a short and local fight against drug dealers in Florida, turned into (via foreign policy interest) an international problem devastating urban communities in the USA, bringing Mexico to the brink of total social unrest and allowing the violence the USA wanted to fight, back into the USA bigger and stronger than ever.
The Crips are in New York. MS-13 is gaining in strength across the entire US and various countries in Central America.
Of course to just write that the killing of young Anthony or Brenda Paz, is the result of a failed foreing policy strategy of the USA in the 80's or that drug dealer Freeway Ricky is sole responsible for the spread of violence caused by the Crips and crack cocaine is to easy and most of all wrong. I am willing to bet that nobody even thought of the posibility of things turning out as they did.
Brenda Paz, born in Honduras and raised in LA, did migrate to MS-13 chapters in Virginia. Anthony did become part of the Crips in New York, because the Crpis were able to be there for him to join.
Both geographical locations are not natural habitats of these gangs, but became so due to policies and decisions made by individuals on both sides of the law.
So what does it all mean?
Perhaps it is too much to think seven generations ahead, but the Iroquois did get it right in spirit. And (don't laugh) so did Donald Rumsfeld.
The effects of our decisions are not a snapshot and do not live in a vacuum. They are always shared. Shared by all of those (known and unknown, intended and unintended) who feel the effects and act upon these decisions in their own way.
At the time of decision or down the line.
We need to remember this and "be willing to implicate ourselves in the consequences of our imagination"* and actions.
*quote by bruce mau