From...............National Catholic Reporter

6 September, 1996 page 11

[my inserts in brackets ...... jp]

By NCR Staff

For more than a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to two Los Angeles street gangs and funneled millions in drug profits to the CIA-sponsored Contras, ..................

............. the San Jose Mercury News reported in a threepart series that began Aug. 18. The drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia's cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, eventually sparking a crack explosion throughout urban America, the paper said.

The Contra's financiers - who met with CIA agents both before and during the time they were selling the drugs in L.A. -............

............ delivered cocaine to the gangs through a young L.A crack dealer named Ricky Donnell Ross, the paper reported. Unaware of his suppliers' military and political connections, "Freeway Rick" turned the cocaine powder into crack and wholesaled it to gangs acrnss 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 Nicaraguan Democratic Force or FDN, the largest of several anticommunist groups commonly called the Contras.

The Mercury News article stated that while the Contra Nicaragua war is history 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 Ñ a drug virtually unobtainable in black neighborhoods before members of the CIA s army started bringing it into South-Central [L.A.] in the 1980s at bargain-basement prices."

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, the paper said.

According to the Mercury News, recently declassified reports, federal court testimony and 12 months of interviews link a notorious drug dealer, Danilo Blandon, to the CIA and the Contra aid-funneling effort.

However, shortly before Blandon - who had been the drug ring's Southern California distributor - took the stand in San Diego as a witness in a drug trial, federal prosecutors obtained a court order preventing defense lawyers from delving into his ties to the CIA.

Blandon, one of the Contra's founders in California, "will admit that he was a large-scale dealer in cocaine, and there is no additional benefit to any defendant to inquire as to the Central Intelligence Agency," Assistant U.S. Attorney L. J. O'Neale argued, according to the 'Mercury News' article.

The most Blandon would say in court about who called the shots when he sold cocaine for the Contras was that "we received orders from the - from other people," the paper stated.

Blandon, who began working for the Contra's drug operation in late 1981, testified that the drug ring sold almost a ton of cocaine in the United States that year - $54 million worth at prevailing wholesale prices. It was not clear how much of the money found its way back to the CIA's army, but Blandon testified that "whatever we were running in L.A., the profit was going to the Contra revolution.''

At the time of that testimony, Blandon was a fulltime informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, a job the U.S. Department of Justice got him after releasing him from prison in 1994.

Though Blandon admitted to crimes that have sent others away for life, the 'Mercury News' reported, the Justice DeDartment turned him loose on unsupervised probation after only 28 months behind bars and has paid him more than $166,000 since, court records show.