Claiming that the CIA was responsible for the crack epidemic is another attempt to convince people of systemic racism. This myth is mostly pushed by Hollywood. Movies and tv shows like the Boys, Kill the Messenger, and Snowfall have all pushed this myth in an attempt to convince people this country is racist.
MYTH: The CIA introduced or allowed crack to be sold in black neighborhoods to help fund the Nicaraguan contras. The CIA allowed this to happen and was complicit in the destruction of those communities.
REALITY: Except that’s not what happened. The myth stems from the belief that a Nicaraguan drug trafficker, Danilo Blandon, with the help of the CIA, sold large quantities of cocaine to Rick Ross, an African American drug dealer in Los Angeles, California. Apparently, the amount of cocaine Blandon sold Ross was enough to create the crack epidemic in Los Angeles and throughout the United States. Blandon then supposedly took the profits he made from drug trafficking and sent the money back to Nicaragua, to help fund the contras. The myth suggests that the CIA allowed this to take place because they wanted the contras to have the funds they needed to fight the Sandinista government, a communist regime.
These accusations were taken so seriously that they led to several federal and independent investigations, which all concluded that the claims were false.
The problem with this narrative is that several major contradictions make the claims impossible.
The first contradiction is that the amount of cocaine that Blandon trafficked wasn’t even enough to supply all of Los Angeles or the United States.
Blandon’s testimony and drug enforcement estimates show that Blandon distributed about five tons of cocaine over a decade-long period. Although this is a lot of cocaine, it’s only a tiny fraction of the amount that was trafficked to the United States. According to academic estimates, more than 250 tons of cocaine were distributed annually throughout the United States.
The other problem is that Rick Ross couldn’t have been responsible for all the cocaine distribution in Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, the influx of crack seemed to be specifically concentrated in black communities and neighborhoods. But the distribution wasn’t perpetrated by one individual or a single network. Malcolm Klein, director of the Social Science Research Institute at the University of Southern California, and his colleagues extensively reviewed arrest records to determine the origins of a crack in Los Angeles. The distribution of crack from 1982 to 1985 in the black communities “does not fit any recognizable patterns such as gang territory,” Klein said.
Throughout his career, Ross was associated with the Crips, and wouldn’t have been able to distribute drugs in every area.
Instead, Klein said, “there were several well-known and highly visible middlemen, like Ross, and probably several more that are unknown. Crack became so widespread so quickly within South Central alone that there must have been multiple routes into that community.”
According to a 1996 article by the Washington Post, “Available data from arrest records, hospitals, drug treatment centers, and drug user surveys point to the rise of crack as a broad-based phenomenon driven in numerous places by players of different nationalities, races, and ethnic groups.”
The article continued, “Although Nicaraguans took part in the drug trade of that era, most of the cocaine trade can be attributed to Colombian and Mexican smugglers, and distributors within the United States including Jamaicans, Dominicans, Haitians, and Americans of varying backgrounds, according to widely accepted evidence from government reports and academic studies.” (Roberto Suro and Walter Pincus, CIA and Crack: Evidence Is Lacking Of Alleged Plot. Washington Post, October 4, 1996, Page A01)
Jonathan Caulkins, a professor of public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, who is an expert on the structure and organization of drug trafficking, explained, “So many different Individuals and operations were involved in the initial spread of crack that you could eliminate anyone person or group from the picture and be certain that the outcome would have been the same.”
Another major contradiction is that Blandon no longer had ties with the contras when he met Rick Ross. Blandon law enforcement records show that Blandon didn’t start distributing to Ross until 1983 or 1984, by which time he was no longer associated with his supplier, Meneses, and had stopped sending funds to the contras.
Blandon also stated that Ross was already “a big coke dealer” before they connected. He claimed that Ross was able to instantly start buying several kilos of cocaine per day from him. Blandon said that Ross had several supply sources and was obtaining large quantities of cocaine from many drug dealers.
Lastly, Blandon denied ever having connections with the CIA. Blandon became an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), where he denied being involved with the CIA. This was confirmed by federal law enforcement officials and by court filings by federal prosecutors.
In conclusion, various government and independent reports debunked the claims. Both, Danilo Blandon and Rick Ross couldn’t have possibly been responsible for all the distribution of cocaine throughout Los Angeles. Blandon wasn’t connected to the CIA or the contras when he sold cocaine to Ross.
Publisher. (1986, April 17). US concedes Contras linked to drugs, but denies leadership involved. Associated Press . Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://apnews.com/article/bb7394e75625a363b8c0bf9b0d6cf969
Weiner, T. (1997, December 19). C.I.A. says it has found no link between itself and crack trade. The New York Times. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/1997/12/19/us/cia-says-it-has-found-no-link-between-itself-and-crack-trade.html
Blum, W. (1996, November 1). The CIA, Contras, gangs, and crack. Foreign Policy In Focus. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://fpif.org/the_cia_contras_gangs_and_crack/
Stuever, H. (2017, July 5). ‘snowfall’ compelling and believable, but based on debunked claim. Toronto Sun. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://torontosun.com/2017/07/05/snowfall-compelling-and-believable-but-based-on-debunked-claim
Publisher. (1997, December). CIA-Contra-Crack Cocaine Controversy: A Review of the Justice Department’s Investigations and Prosecutions— Chapter VII: Enrique Miranda-Jaime. Department of Justice . Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://oig.justice.gov/sites/default/files/archive/special/9712/ch07.htm
Suro, R., & Pincus, W. (1996, October 4). Washington Post— The CIA and crack: Evidence is lacking of alleged plot. Duke University . Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://people.duke.edu/~ldbaker/clippings/cia.html
Leen, J. (2014, October 17). Gary Webb was no journalism hero, despite what ‘kill the messenger’ says. The Washington Post. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/gary-webb-was-no-journalism-hero-despite-what-kill-the-messenger-says/2014/10/17/026b7560-53c9-11e4-809b-8cc0a295c773_story.html
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