Mayhem and Murder in L.A.

The hotels bear names out of the vanished past of a Raymond Chandler novel: the Palms-Wilshire, the Californian, the Barbizon. But in the once tony Wilshire-Alvarado district of Los Angeles, a swath of wide streets and pink stucco apartment buildings five minutes from downtown, the elegance is gone. There, amid broken glass, dank, urine-stained hallways, and discount shops, live more than 1,000 Marielitos, many sporting the telltale tattoos that mark them as former prisoners in Cuban jails. Squalid $8 rooms serve as base camps for drug dealers, prostitutes and holdup gangs. Nearby...

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