Cross posted from The Violence Worker
Cudahy, California is just another tiny suburb of Los Angeles. But Cudahy isn’t just any town. It is a corrupt little city run by drug lords, gangs and crooked politicians and for all intents and purposes, it could be located 120 miles to the southeast on the other side of the Mexican border.
The first sign of trouble for Cudahy City Council candidate Tony Mendoza was a pair of thong panties mailed to his wife, with a note telling her to watch her husband’s back. Then came the phone calls — and the death threats.
A political novice in a tiny city of Mexican immigrants that hasn’t had an election since 1999, Mendoza had expected dirty tricks. But to his dismay, the caller, who spoke poor English and called every day for three days, said Mendoza would be killed if he did not leave Cudahy, a 1.2-square-mile city 10 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. After the third call, Mendoza pulled out of the March 6 race. “I have my family to think about,” he said.
Running for council seats against a slate of incumbents in a city infested with gangs and drugs, Danny Cota and Luis Garcia faced similar tactics. A truck owned by Garcia, a former city employee, was painted with graffiti, and ex-felon and Cudahy city employee Gerardo Vallejo sought a restraining order against Garcia for criminal threats. A judge tossed the complaint, but Garcia’s campaign was rattled.
Sounds like a nice, family oriented town, doesn’t it? It gets worse.
Cudahy resembles a Mexican border town more than it does a Los Angeles suburb. Entrenched gangs and Mexican drug trafficking have trapped working-class legal and illegal immigrants in a cycle of violence and fear, in a city where less than a quarter of the 28,000 residents are eligible to vote. An uneducated city council, a deeply troubled police force imported from Maywood two towns over, and the raw power of the 18th Street Gang — a complex criminal organization with a knack for setting up business fronts and obscuring underground drug activity — make Cudahy residents seem like hostages in their own city.
By most accounts, Cudahy City Council members — two retired union managers, an insurance salesman, a waitress and a grocer — do not run the city as they were elected to do. Rather, they defer to City Manager Perez, a former janitor who is known to favor revenue traps such as DUI and driver’s license checkpoints over aggressive tactics that make gangs and drug dealers less comfortable.
This goes on for seven whole pages and reads like a something out of a gangster movie. If there is ever a reason to secure our borders, this town and those like it are it.
It is long, but I urge you to read the whole thing!
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