heroin moves from turkey to afghanistan -- 10/29/19

Today's selection -- from Opium by Martin Booth. Heroin moves from Turkey to Afghanistan:

"For twenty years, until 1972, the Corsicans in alliance with both the Italian Mafia (which it is alleged, until the present day, have had high political protection in their home country) and the American Mafia, ran the US heroin market: they accounted for over 80 percent of American consumption.

"Once in the USA, the heroin was taken to cutting and pack­ing centres known as 'heroin mills', such as those in Pleasant Avenue in New York's East Harlem, where it was adulterated and repackaged for bulk, retail or street sale. By the 1970s, the avenue and the area around it was a wholesale heroin market, known as the Pleasant Avenue Connection. Some of the tenements contained 'cut houses', small mills in stifling, air-tight rooms in which, under armed guard, women, naked due to the heat, cut heroin and weighed it into small plastic bags which retailed at $5 each. Outside, teenagers called 'movers', paid up to $2000 a week, loaded and unloaded pure heroin from sellers' to buyers' vehicles. The business was conducted overtly with the connivance of certain corrupt police officers from a supposedly untouchable New York Police Department squad known as the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). Its members collaborated with the Mafia to create a local heroin epidemic amongst neighborhood blacks and Puerto Ricans, Jewish dealers acting as middlemen. The Pleasant Avenue Connection was finally closed down in 1973 when a specially constituted squad of untouchable police and federal agents side-stepped the SIU. Nearly a hundred gangsters were arrested. One of these, caught with a million dollars, was asked what he was going to do with the money: he sarcastically replied he was going to buy a newspaper.

Gigi Inglese, second from left and Gennaro Zanfardino, second from right, surveying Pleasant Ave from the corner of 117th Street. Day after day, the same men would be on the same corner overseeing the movement of hundreds of pounds of heroin.

"Some sections of the American Mafia also trafficked in heroin (called babania in Sicilian slang) from Sicily, their trade known as the Sicilian Connection. In Sicily itself, friction in the Mafia between traditionalists and the new realists had produced a new breed of mafiosi who not only held America in thrall but through their international connections and by dealing with other overseas suppliers, were to become intercontinental heroin brokers. ...

"[In 1972, the source of most of this heroin was stemmed.] The Turkish authorities outlawed poppy cultivation under pressure from the American government.

This was a major [but short-lived] victory in Nixon's drug war....

"[This] forced the American Mafia to find a new heroin source, for which they had in fact already been searching, appreciating the pressure being put on Turkey to stop production.

"Geographically speaking, they did not have far to look. Poppy cultivation was common from Turkey to Tibet in an area loosely termed the Golden Crescent and consisting of the mountains of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan where opium had been produced since at least the sixteenth century."


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Martin Booth


Opium: A History


St. Martin's Griffin


Copyright 1999 by Martin Booth


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