Latino advocate reacts to arrests | AspenTimes.com

Latino advocate reacts to arrests

John Colson

One spokesman for the valley’s Latino community said on Sunday that he does not feel the recent busts of 10 Latino men in Aspen had racial or ethnic overtones, necessarily.But Ricardo Torres, former Latino advocate for the Catholic Charities organization, questioned whether the raids on two of Aspen’s long-standing restaurants, Little Annie’s Eating House and Cooper Street Pier, accomplished much.To devote 53 officers from various local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to nab a few low-level dealers and a small amount of cash is a questionable use of resources, he said.”I mean, get real, guys,” he said in mock admonishment. “Probably they’re spending more money on their salaries than they get in cocaine.”Police also have said the Dec. 2 raids netted anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 in cash believed to be the spoils of drug trafficking, and anywhere from “a couple of ounces” to 74 “bindles” containing some 5 ounces of cocaine, depending on which police reports are under discussion. A bindle is a folded paper envelope traditionally used to sell small quantities of cocaine and other drugs.Torres, who works as a driver for an area construction supply business, said that he does not feel the busts are much of a topic among Spanish-speaking residents of the valley. The sweeps netted arrests of 10 Hispanic men on drug charges and another 11 on alleged immigration law violations, and one man wanted in connection with the operation remains at large.”I’ve read everything that’s been written about this,” said Torres, who is fluent in English. But among much of the valley’s Latino community, where English language skills are not that widespread or deeply held, “What happened in English stays in English,” he remarked.The news of the busts is spreading among Latinos, he said, “But it takes a few weeks.” He cited a conversation he had recently with a man who works as a cook in Aspen but knew nothing of the raids.”I don’t see that there’s too much talking because most of the people are not involved in drugs,” Torres continued. They’re just workers.”Torres did wonder, however, why the raid – which began at 4:15 p.m. that day and lasted for nearly three hours while agents searched the premises – included the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.”If Immigration was there, it’s because they thought somebody was illegal,” Torres reasoned, but “if it’s drugs, why do they call Immigration? Do they assume that everybody’s illegal? Is that a regular procedure?Even so, he said, “In my opinion, I don’t think this was motivated really by Immigration. I think this was just a show for these guys, the Aspen police,” which he said doesn’t necessarily mean “there’s a racial thing here, as the main thing.”John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com