Sunday, August 26, 2007

Oh please: be real!

Feared gang renounces its crime crown

Ecuador's mafia go straight in government pact

Rory Carroll in Quito
Sunday August 26, 2007
The Observer

Naming themselves after Aztec and Inca warriors, they deal in drugs, gun down rivals and glory in the memory of a cannibal jail feast. They are the Latin Kings, a Hispanic gang that has spread across the Americas and Europe.

For five decades they have intimidated opponents and baffled authorities with secret rituals, feeding the mystique about their identity and purpose. Dressed in black and yellow, the Kings have been implicated in killings in the US, gang wars in South America and riots in Spain.

Now, however, thousands of members want to enter mainstream society and go legit. An ambitious transformation attempt is unfolding in their heartland, Ecuador, where former gangsters are launching new careers as social workers, entrepreneurs and fashion designers. 'It will be a struggle, but nothing is impossible. We can make this work,' said Jostyn, a 29-year-old gang leader in the capital, Quito. 'We can live in the legal world and still have respect.'

The left-wing government of President Rafael Correa has decided to recognise the Latin Kings as a cultural and social organisation, which will now work alongside the police, social services and churches in the slums. Members will retain their distinctive salute - two fingers and a thumb extended to mimic a crown - their oath of allegiance and a hierarchy involving monarchs, treasurers and soldiers. The pact, the culmination of two years of negotiations between gang leaders and the authorities, with academics and clerics acting as mediators, is being touted as a model for the US and Europe.

A ceremony in Quito's council chamber inaugurated the accord last month. The mayor, a government minister and police welcomed about 40 gang members, most wearing baggy jeans and yellow T-shirts, as 'dear boys' who would make Ecuador a better place. Jostyn, who declined to give his surname, presented plaques to several officials, who beamed with pride. When TV cameras panned across the chamber several younger members hid their faces behind baseball caps. On Jostyn's command they all rose to their feet and bellowed allegiance to the Kings.

Critics say that the deal is a blueprint to mollycoddle hoodlums. Supporters say it is an enlightened attempt to tackle a complex problem, but concede transformation will not be easy. As gangsters many of the Kings had money and prestige in the slums of Quito and Guayaquil. There is talk of setting up cybercafes, micro-credit schemes and a fashion label with the initials LK, but going straight will narrow the chances for making easy dollars.

Mainstream society, which has long felt threatened and repelled by the gang, may not accept it has changed, said Nayla Versosa, director of a charity that rehabilitates troubled youth. 'I'm worried they will still be discriminated against when looking for jobs and that some police officers will still harass them.'

A minority faction of the Kings has refused to accept the peace deal and turned on their former comrades. Breakaway members are believed to have been behind a drive-by shooting that narrowly missed killing Jostyn and his followers just hours before the Quito ceremony. 'We know who they are. They have been expelled from the organisation,' said the softly spoken leader, sitting on church steps near the spot of the ambush.

Another potential threat is the Ñetas, a rival gang that has waged bloody turf wars with the Kings. But Wilson Alulema, a police colonel who has negotiated a ceasefire with both gangs, said the Ñetas were on the same path to legalization. 'They also want a normal life.'

Thoughts from Bethany:

I don't know if the admiration and idolatry of the Latin Kings on behalf of the park guys group ever graduated into actual commitment and inclusion in the gang. When I left, there were many rumours of it. There is no way I would be informed if it were the case, partly because everybody in the neighbourhood thinks they are Latin Kings anyway, and partly because I always made it very clear to the guys how distasteful the thought of the gang was to me.

If Correa is taking a constructive approach to the problem, then I am very happy. Putting community and business management responsibilities in their hands sounds interesting. I think, because of the power and reach of the gang, as well as the neighbourhoods most of its members come from, there is the dangerous possibility of the gang taking over ALL cyber cafe business in the squatter areas. They definitely have not had time to develop business ethics. I think there will be a huge temptation of corruption, and power. And the police will definitely do nothing to help them go straight. I do predict a fair amount of police bullying and bribe-fishing, which may destroy any intentions LK businessmen and woman of staying clean.

Who knows. This is far more positive news than the traditional news of murders and drug busts.

So be hopeful,,2156350,00.html

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Horne's have flown

Spending a month with you guys was real nice. I'm sure much will result of this period, and we can only wait and see, but thanks for the time given. Communication indeed will be upheld. I'm different now, but still a daughter of something.

favourite poem for today

Monday, August 20, 2007

An afternoon alone

Do click on the pictures for bigger versions if you are too settled to go find your reading glasses. Sorry about the abundance of quotations on this blog in recent times. Truthfully, I have been thinking about a lot of other things these days ... a lot of other things besides myself I mean.

I went to the HCAP office this morning and it was staffed by Greg. I sat and wrote Clinic information on some pamphlets I was planning to take to the coffee shop, but that wasn't what resonated about the 15 minutes I was in there. Greg is an open, trusting, caring, clear-minded decided fellow. What a thing it was just to talk with him! He was very nice to me after he found out I was planning on taking some information over the Coffee shop, even as pure as he is, he still allows himself to be surprised by pleasantness. We had a nice little chat about the ideals of the clinics. He explained the importance of a blue form I might not know about as I haven't been at recent HCAP meetings, and told me how I should tell people to get it. Nothing about him is put on at all.... at all! Do you know how rare a naturally friendly person is? I mean, I live with a few of them, but out there, out there!

I have come to wonder what is so scary about people knowing how you feel about something. That you were really pleased to be invited to a spontaneous vegan dumpster Taco night. And other such examples. There is a cap on feeling, you see. You can only spend so much. And yes, I liked what this 85 year old woman had to share on CBC radio. What did I like about it? I liked that she is 85. That gives her so much more credibility. Some things fade and some gain importance as you go on. It is interesting to learn what has gained importance for someone like her. I have added her wisdom to the map with all the rest of the information on it, the map for living.

It would be kind of me to add a link:

And a thank you, Paul. It will be nice to read that book together. Thank you.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Grapes of Wrath

"I hear a business man talkin' about service, I wonder who's gettin' screwed. Fella in business got to lie an' cheat, but he calls it somepin else. That's what's important. You go steal that tire and you're a thief, but he tried to steal your four dollars for a busted tire. They call that sound business." Al: "Ain't you thinkin' what's it gonna be like when we get there? Ain't you scared it won't be nice like we thought?" Ma: "No, I ain't. You can't do that. I can't do that. It's too much- livin' too many lives. Up ahead they's a thousan' lives we might live, but when it comes, it'll on'y be one. If I go ahead on all of 'em, it's too much. You got to live ahead 'cause you're so young, but- it's just the road goin' by for me. "