In “Part VI” of the World History of Drugs, you will meet the pawns in this deadly game of politics and drugs. You will learn how the most powerful men in America, and thus the most powerful men in the world, used and abused the lives of the pawns in this scandalous affair and ultimately the lives of the American public. The American public is still, suffering from the decisions these men made. Meet the pawns in this deadly affair: Oliver North (NSA Staff Member) and a willing participant, Adler Berriman “Barry” Seal (Medellin Cartel Pilot), Oscar Danilo Blandon (Drug Dealer and CIA informant), Rick Ross (Drug Dealer and Scapegoat) and Gary Webb (Newspaper Reporter destined to be thrown under the bus by his colleagues). Before this scandal is over, one of these pawns will become rich (seemingly legitimately), one will leave the country, one will go to prison and the rest will die, violently.
Let’s recap “The Iran-Contra Scandal.” President Reagan’s Administration sold American weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of hostages that Hezbollah had been holding captive in Lebanon when Iranians stormed the American Embassy in Iran. Some of the money received from those sales were used to fund the Contras, a militia movement trying to overthrow a Democratically elected communist government in Nicaragua.
The sale of arms to Iran and the financial support of the Contras were in violation of the Reagan administration’s policy and was in direct violation of the Boland Amendment. This illegal act became known as the “Iran-Contra Affair,” and it threatened the Reagan administration’s, and America’s, credibility at home and abroad.
The money that was made from the arms deal with the Iranians was used to fund the Contras. North was the author of the idea to use the arms deal money to support the Contras. In August of 1986, Congress investigators asked North about funding the Contras, North lied and said there was no under-the-table funding of the Contras, while the Reagan administration was actively engaged in doing exactly what he was denying and was responsible for the idea to divert a portion of the proceeds from the arms deal to the Contras. The scandal went public when a report appeared in a Lebanese newspaper later that year. North shredded most of the documents relating to his involvement. Reagan fired North only when his involvement in the scandal went public in November of 1986. Oliver North went on to become a millionaire and just recently became the head of the National Rifle Association at a yearly salary of two million dollars¹
Adler Berriman “Berry” Seal (Medellin Cartel Pilot)
Seal was used by the DEA as an informant. Seal was facing a heavy drug smuggling sentence. He had contacted Vice President George Bush’s Drug Task Force. Seal was referred to DEA headquarters. DEA agent Ernst Jacobsen was assigned to debrief Seal to evaluate his potential as an informant. Jacobsen was impressed with Seal’s connection to the Ochoa family. Seal agreed to become an informant for the DEA. Seal worked for the DEA until his death on the evening of February 19, 1986. He was shot to death in front of the Salvation Army Center.
William J. Hughes strongly suggested that North was the source of the leak that ended with the death of Seal. DEA Administrator John C. Lawn reported to the Kerry Committee, in a report released in December 1988, that indicated that North “decided to play politics with the issue.” In an interview with Frontline, North said that his National Security Council bosses told him to brief Senator Paula Hawkins about the operation. He denied leaking the report. Hawkins told Frontline that neither she nor her staff leaked the information after the briefing. Jacoby later said that North was not the source of his story and that a deceased staff member for Representative Dan Daniel was the source of the story. After everyone responsible for protecting Seal had finished denying their responsibility, Barry Seal was still dead.²
Oscar Danilo Blandon (Drug Dealer and CIA Informant)
Oscar Danilo Blandon was a cocaine trafficker in Los Angeles who provided the profits of his sales to the Contra revolution. Blandon, along with Norwin Meneses, turned “Rick Ross into L.A.’s first king of crack.” In 1986, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) raided more than a dozen locations connected to Blandon’s drug operation but found no drugs at any of the locations. The CIA compromised these LASD raids because of Blandon’s ties to the Contras and the Contras ties to the Reagan administration. Blandon was prosecuted in 1992 by federal authorities and “admitted to crimes that have sent others away for life.” He was released from prison after just over two years in jail and was paid by the DEA for his cooperation. Moreover, Blandon received permanent legal resident status in the United States.
Blandon said that in 1980 or 1981 he became involved with the Contra movement in Los Angeles. He opposed the Nicaraguan Sandinista because they were communists. He began attending informal meetings of the opponents of the Sandinistas. Around 1980 or 1981, Colonel Enrique Bermudez, a leader of the Contra group called the “Fuerza Democratica Nicaragua” or “FDN,” came to Los Angeles, and the group he attended affiliated itself with the FDN.
In 1983, Bermudez addressed Contra supporters in the United States. In his address he told his supporters that “the train is running,” which Blandon understood that statement to mean that the CIA was funding the Contras in Central America. Blandon continued selling drugs in Los Angeles, now for personal gain rather than funding the Contras.
Blandon met Rick Ross around the early 1980s and their relationship was forged through the business of drug trafficking. Blandon retired to Nicaragua and became wealthy in the lumber business.³
Gary Webb (Newspaper Reporter)
Gary started researching “Dark Alliance” in July 1995. The Mercury News published the series in three parts, from August 18th to the 20th of 1996, with articles appearing each day. It was also posted on The Mercury News website, including documents cited in the series and audio recordings of people quoted in the articles. The website artwork showed the silhouette of a man smoking a crack pipe superimposed over the CIA seal.
To summarize Gary Webb’s claims in his investigative series called “Dark Alliance” is as follows. The Crips and Bloods were being sold tons of cocaine for over a decade. The millions in profits that was made from the street gangs of Los Angeles was then used to fund a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. “This drug ring opened the first pipeline between Colombia’s cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles.” The result was that cocaine flooded Black communities across America which was the start of the crack explosion in urban America.
This story and the subsequent investigation that followed was the result of this story reaching the eyes of Maxine Waters who was a new Congresswoman representing South Central Los Angeles. She was extremely angry that the U.S government could even be remotely involved in drug dealing and that drug dealing was tearing her community apart. She brought this information before Congress. This was the beginning of the Iran-Contra Scandal that almost, and should have, brought the Reagan administration to its knees.
The full weight of the CIA, NSA and the Reagan Administration came down on Gary and his colleagues, his newspaper, and ultimately Gary’s family turned on him. He was thrown under the bus. His career and his life were destroyed.
Gary was found dead on December 10, 2004, with two gunshot wounds to the head. The Sacramento County coroner’s office ruled his death a suicide. Sacramento County Coroner Robert Lyons’ statement confirmed Webb had died by suicide. Lyons was asked by local reporters about the possibility of two gunshots being a suicide, Lyons replied: “It’s unusual in a suicide case to have two shots, but it has been done in the past, and it is in fact a distinct possibility.” Many believed that Gary was killed as punishment for writing Dark Alliance, the expose that started the Iran-Contra Scandal.(4)
Rick Ross (Drug Dealer and Scapegoat)
Rick Ross was a drug dealer and unwitting pawn of the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency operatives, and indirectly, the Reagan administration. “Freeway Ricky,” as he was known in the streets, was supplied with unlimited amounts of cocaine by his suppliers who used the profits to pay for the CIA-spawned Contra war who were fighting a civil war against Nicaragua’s communist backed government in the 1980s.
Ricky went from small time dealer to a big-time cocaine dealer in 1981 when he met and began to be supplied by Oscar Danilo Blandon Reyes, a man he thought was a good friend, a man he respected, and a man who had a master’s degree in marketing. It would be more than a decade before Ricky would find out that his respected friend and key supplier was a DEA informant, with connections to the CIA.
By 1984, “Freeway Rick” was a kingpin. He managed more than a dozen crack houses in South Central LA making him between $20,000 to $40,000 a day. Ricky’s operation grew, and it didn’t take long before he was one of the biggest cocaine dealers in South Central. Danilo Blandon was his sole supplier.
Ricky’s luck ran out in 1988. One of his shipments of cocaine was busted by a drug-sniffing dog at a New Mexico bus station and drug agents made the connection to him. Rick plead guilty to trafficking and got a mandatory ten-year prison sentence. He started serving his time in 1990.
Using Oscar Danilo’s testimony, Ricky’s respected and trusted friend, Ricky was convicted by an all-white jury of conspiracy, conspiring to sell the DEA’s cocaine. Ricky was facing life in jail, with no chance for parole.
Ultimately Ricky was used by many governmental agencies and people, directly and indirectly. He spent many years of his life in prison.(5)
This country has used its power and might to obtain its goals since its birth. The men responsible for making decisions on behalf of their citizens swear that they will uphold the law when they take office. It is sad when those trusted government servants use that power for the benefit of themselves and their ideology, especially when it does not fit the wishes of the people. It is even more frightening when they use the citizens of the country that they swore to protect to achieve their agendas. In this series “World History of Drugs” I tried to tie events and people together. When seen separately these events mean very little but, when connected, they begin to reveal a picture that is unbelievable, undeniable, and maddening. I have had my share of run-ins with the law and I don’t exonerate myself. I have tried to live a better life in the hope that moving forward I am able to be a better person whose life may touch the lives of others in a more positive and spiritual way.
America is not alone in its use of drugs, drug laws and power. Most, if not all, of the countries of the world are responsible for doing the same or similar things. Remember that governments are people with power and rather those people use their power for good or ill. We can no longer turn our backs and throw up our hands as if it is not our responsibility to change the world. It is, and we can. Each moment you are responsible for the way you choose to live. Like it or not each life has an impact on another, each impact is the beginning of a change in a community, each impact on a community will impact the society, the society impacts the country, and each country impacts the world.
Drugs will impact our world for the foreseeable future, whether you use drugs or use drugs to use others and even if you have never used yourself, chances are you know someone who does or has. It is time to make a decision. If you see drugs as something “out there,” and it doesn’t affect you, your thinking is so far from the truth. If you use: STOP. TALK TO SOMEONE. THERE IS A WAY OUT. If you know someone who uses: TALK TO THEM. If you are a professional trying to help those already addicted: GOD BLESS YOU. My name is George, a grateful person in long term recovery.
- Britannica website, Oliver North: United States Military Officer
- Wikipedia website, Barry Seal: Undercover Work in Nicaragua
- U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General website, Timeline of Significant Events Related to Former DEA Special Agent Celerino Castillo, III
- Wikipedia website, Gary Webb
- FCN Publishing Online website, Muhammad, Rosalind, A Pawn in the CIA Drug Game
George Lewis is founder and CEO of Motivational Consulting, Inc. and has more than 18 years of experience in the human services industry. His website is motivationalconsultinginc.com.
Last Updated on July 14, 2021