Thursday, July 21, 2011

The way we were: Miami in the 1980's...Mariel, murder, crooked cops and cocaine

TIME Magazine, Paradise Lost, Nov. 23, 1981:
Anglos tend to work the marijuana trade, while the cocaine market is controlled by Colombians and Cubans. No matter what their specialty, the illegal entrepreneurs can be easily spotted. Young Anglos wearing scruffy Levi's and T shirts, gold Rolex watches and ropes of gold chain sit around the marinas waiting for the next call from a mother ship. Current pay for one night's work piloting a "cigarette" averages $50,000, while the wages for unloading the bales are $5,000 to $10,000 a night.

Cuban dealers favor Mercedes Benzes and bodyguards dressed in dark suits and carrying two guns (one under the coat and one strapped to the ankle). José Medrano Alvero Cruz, nicknamed El Padrino, always travels in a Rolls-Royce protected by cars full of bodyguards. Alvero, who is fond of listening to the theme song from The Godfather on his car stereo, never talks on the telephone and keeps himself insulated from any drug deal through relatives and friends. Nevertheless, he was recently convicted for tax evasion.

The Colombians
are the most secretive of all, preferring to keep the business in the family. Officials estimate that there are from 50 to 150 top Colombian traffickers in South Florida, with another 200 or so middle-level managers. Wives, brothers, sisters and children all help out. That is one reason why narcotics agents have failed to break any of the big coke rings in the area. "Say I have 75 pounds of coke that has just come in," explains "Bena-vides," a Colombian-born drug dealer who lives in Miami. "Who am I going to trust better than my brother? I take it to his place. After all, I am paying the rent."
A clip from the classic documentary, "Cocaine Cowboys," by Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman.

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