By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Readers of Gary Webb’s "Dark Alliance" series on the contra-crack connection in South-Central Los Angeles might be wondering whatever happened to a key figure in the story, convicted drug dealer Oscar Danilo Blandon. Well, we found him — smack in the middle of another drug scandal involving Nicaragua.
Webb documented how Blandon and others supplied tons of cocaine to L.A. crack distributor "Freeway" Ricky Ross in the early ’80s. Part of the proceeds went to finance the contra war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Webb suggested that the CIA knew of the coke-trafficking operation but turned a blind eye.
Blandon, under a deal with the feds, played informant in 1994 to help the DEA nab Ross and put him behind bars. Fast-forward to December 23. That’s when the Nicaraguan police busted what they described as the largest marijuana-growing operation in the history of Central America. The point person and 10 percent shareholder in the Canadian company, Hemp Agro International, which was charged with cultivating 400 million pounds of marijuana, was — you guessed it — none other than Blandon. He secured permits from the Nicaraguan Agriculture Department to import and farm what the combine described as hemp. The Nicara-guan government launched an investigation, and early this month heads of minor officials rolled.
Hemp Agro claims that its crop was hemp, the non-narcotic variant of marijuana. The Toronto Sunnewspaper reported that the Hemp Agro crop’s level of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, was above that of commercial hemp but below that of pot sold on the street. No matter, the DEA, which is suspected of having had a hand in the busts, considers both substances illegal. Blandon, who was conveniently out of the country for the arrests, denied any wrongdoing or association with the DEA in an interview from his Baton Rouge, Louisiana, home. (The interview was with the Nicaraguan newspaper Confidencial, www.confidencial.com.ni.) Now, where have we heard Blandon baying his innocence before? Oh yes, when he denied CIA or DEA knowledge of his contra support, or its link to the crack epidemic.—Queena Sook Kim
We were startled last Sunday to find no mention in James Bates’ L.A. Timesmagazine article on Rupert Murdoch of the media mogul’s notorious penchant for jettisoning the First Amendment in the service of his global empire. Where was the discussion of Murdoch’s decision last year to kill former Hong Kong Governor-General Christopher Patten’s book on China on the bogus grounds that it was boring — and the real grounds that it contained a discussion of the Chinese regime that included its "negative aspects"? Nary a word, either, on Murdoch’s 1994 decision to throw the BBC and its tough reporting out of the satellite programs he was hoping to beam to the billion-odd potential consumers of China — for fear, again, of offending the government. Even Newt Gingrich’s $4.5 million book contract with a Murdoch-owned publishing house failed to make the cut; Murdoch at the time was battling charges that he had violated Federal Communications Commission rules against foreign ownership of U.S. TV stations. (The Australian titan later became an American citizen.) Instead, Bates accused the media of stereotyping Murdoch, dismissed his very real war with co-titan Ted Turner, and treated us to a touching real-guy tableau of Murdoch eating a hot dog and peanuts at his soon-to-be-gold-plated Dodger Stadium. For that matter, what’s with this Hail Mary bid by Murdoch to grab the new L.A. NFL team for Chavez Ravine’s empty acres: just a rumor, or a potential deal? You’d never know from reading Bates’ profile, which seemed modeled after the kind of story that the Murdoch press does on right-wing pols: a puff-piece.