Bandidos rage around the world
by ROBERT JOHNSON Contributing Columnist
April 21, 2006
Outlaw biker gangs are comparatively low on the ladder of organized crime, but what they lack in stature, they more than make up for in violence. The most infamous gang is the Hells Angels, founded in Oakland, Calif., in 1948, creating chapters across the world.
While lesser-known, the Bandidos, the second most powerful biker gang in the world, is no less dangerous. In the 1960s, disenchanted Vietnam War veterans working on the docks of Galveston County, Texas, formed a motorcycle gang and dubbed themselves the Bandido Nation, known to the rest of the world simply as the Bandidos. When the club was found by the late Donald Eugene Chambers, a former Marine, in 1966, its main interests were motorcycles, drinking and staying away from the rest of society.
Chambers picked out gold and red for the biker crests, after the Marine Corps colors, and got the gang’s name from the “Frito Bandido,” a cartoon character used in television commercials.
The crest is a cartoonish, portly character wielding a sword and wearing a sombrero. While the gang might have started out in a light-hearted fashion, it came to be deadly serious about its business.
Motorcycle gangs were largely pushed out of the American methamphetamine trade by Mexican gangs, but this only served to force biker gangs, and their bloody turf wars, further north. Methamphetamine, or meth, is currently the premier drug problem in rural America and simply swamping attempts by law enforcement to stop it. There, the gangs also expanded into prostitution and smuggling weapons. Today, the Bandidos are involved in considerably more than beer and motorcycles.
Police have said that the gang is involved in many kinds of illegal operations, including drug manufacturing and trafficking, running prostitution rings, arms dealing, extortion, fencing stolen property and contract murder, an impressive rap sheet. The fighting between the Bandidos and the Hells Angels has been extremely violent and destructive, sometimes resulting in hundreds of deaths.
During the 1990s, the Hells Angels and another gang, the Rock Machine, waged a bloody turf war which only came to an end in 2000, when the widespread violence led to a ceasefire in the bikers’ gruesome war.
The truce proved to be brief, and then the Rock Machine merged with the Bandidos, provoking another rivalry which would end in Ontario’s worst massacre.
Recently, in Canada, eight Bandidos were found shot in the head at close range and stuffed into vehicles in a farmer’s field near Shedden, Canada, in the largest mass murder in Ontario’s history.
They were likely the victims of fellow gang members, probably murdered because the eight planned to defect to the Hells Angels, the longtime rivals of the Bandidos. Since the Angels began expanding into western Canada in the beginning of the decade, many Bandidos joined the Angels. In the wake of this massacre, the club in Canada is limited to a dozen in Ontario, the site of the massacre, and five in Manitoba.
The Bandidos today spread across the United States, with an especially heavy presence in WashingtonState, and seem to have an ability to adapt to and exploit local conditions. It has 100 chapters around the world, as far away as Thailand, Australia and Europe. In Scandinavia, the Angels and the Bandidos employed rocket-propelled anti-tank grenades and AK-47 assault rifles. In Denmark, the bikers have teamed up with immigrant gangs to carry out drug dealing, openly selling drugs on the streets.
Even if you live in rural America, you are not truly safe from the violence of criminal organizations like the Bandidos. While they may not be a household name, the Bandidos have shown a remarkable ability to expand across the world and soak it with blood from their feud with the Hells Angels. And there are plenty of other biker gangs out there, terrorizing the general public.
Even if the image of the outlaw biker is romantic, the reality is often a grim road to a violent death.
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