Enrique Camarena (DEA agent)
|Nickname(s)||"Kike" (Spanish), "Kiki" (English)|
July 26, 1947|
|Died||February 9, 1985
La Angostura, Mexico
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch|| U.S. Marine Corps (1972-1974)
Drug Enforcement Administration
|Years of service||1972-1974 (U.S. Marine Corps)|
Enrique S. "Kiki" Camarena (July 26, 1947 – February 9, 1985) was a Mexican-born American undercover agent for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who was abducted on February 7, 1985, and then tortured and murdered, while on assignment in Mexico. Camarena's nickname in Spanish was "Kike" and "Kiki" in English.
Early life and education
In 1973, Camarena joined the United States Marine Corps, where he served for two years. He then joined the DEA at their Calexico, California, office. In 1977, Camarena moved to their Fresno office, and in 1981 he was assigned to the agency's Guadalajara office in Mexico. Camarena had also worked as a firefighter and police investigator before joining the DEA in Calexico.
In 1984, acting on information by Camarena, 450 Mexican soldiers backed by helicopters destroyed a 1,000 hectares (≈2,500 acres) marijuana plantation known as 'Rancho Búfalo', where thousands of farmers worked the fields, the annual production of which was later valued at US$8 billion. The drug lords were outraged and set to investigate the source of the leak. Drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo ordered the kidnapping of Camarena on February 7, 1985, which apparently was done in broad daylight by corrupt police officers on his payroll. Camarena was tortured and bludgeoned to death soon after. Although his body was found on March 5, he may have been killed about one month before that. Pathologists who examined his body believed the actual date of death was more likely around February 9. Camarena's body was found in a rural area outside a small town by the name of La Angostura in the state of Michoacán, Mexico.
The torture and murder of Camarena prompted a swift reaction from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and launched Operation Leyenda, the largest DEA homicide investigation ever undertaken. A special unit was dispatched to coordinate the investigation in Mexico – where corrupt officials were being implicated. Investigators soon identified Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and his two close associates, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and Rafael Caro Quintero, as the primary suspects in the kidnapping. Under pressure from the U.S.A., to President Miguel de la Madrid's government (1982-1988), Fonseca and Quintero were quickly apprehended, but Félix Gallardo still enjoyed political protection.
The United States government pursued a lengthy investigation of Camarena's murder. Due to the difficulty of extraditing Mexican citizens, the DEA went as far as to detain two suspects, Humberto Álvarez Machaín, the physician who allegedly prolonged Camarena's life so the torture could continue, and Javier Vásquez Velasco, kidnapped and taken into the United States. Despite vigorous protests from the Mexican government, Álvarez was tried in United States District Court in Los Angeles. The trial resulted in an acquittal by a judge before the trial commenced. However the case was then appealed to the Supreme Court where they ruled that it is the State Department's choice whether to break extradition treaties and apprehend fugitives in other countries. Therefore Machain could be charged with a crime. The four others, Vásquez Velasco, Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros, Juan José Bernabé Ramirez and Rubén Zuno Arce (a relative of former President Luis Echeverría) did not escape, and were found guilty of Camarena's kidnapping.
In October 2013, three federal agents told an American television network that the CIA allegedly participated in the kidnapping, torture, and murder of Camarena because the agency was supposedly involved in drug trafficking from Latin America to Mexico during the 1980s to raise money to aid Nicaraguan Contra rebels trying to overthrow Nicaragua's Sandinista government.
Camarena received numerous awards while with the DEA, and after his death, he posthumously received the Administrator's Award of Honor, the highest award given by the organization. In Fresno, the DEA hosts a yearly golf tournament named after him. The nationwide annual Red Ribbon Week, which teaches school children and youths to avoid drug use, was established in his memory.
In 2004, the Enrique S. Camarena Foundation was established in Camarena's memory. Camarena's wife Mika and son Enrique Jr. serve on the all-volunteer Board of Directors together with former DEA agents, law enforcement personnel, family and friends of Enrique Camarena, and others who share their commitment to alcohol, tobacco and other drug and violence prevention.
Camarena is survived by his wife Mika and their three sons.
In popular culture
Several movies about Camarena were produced in Mexico. In November 1988, Time magazine featured Camarena on the cover. A 1990 U.S television mini-series about Camarena, starring Treat Williams and Steven Bauer, was produced (Drug Wars: The Camarena Story), an unofficial record of the events that occurred.
In 2005, the History Channel produced a documentary Heroes Under Fire: Righteous Vendetta, that chronicles the events. It also features interviews with family members, DEA agents and others involved in the investigation.
Also in 2005, the book ¿O Plata O Plomo? The abduction and murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena was released. It was written by DEA Resident Agent in Charge James H. Kuykendall (Ret.).
- Jaime Zapata (U.S. agent)
- Javier Barba-Hernandez
- Mexican Drug War
- United States v. Alvarez-Machain
- Hispanics in the United States Marine Corps
- Torture murder
- Sifuentes, Hervey. Proclamarán Semana del Listón Rojo en honor a "Kike" Camarena. Zócalo Saltillo. Retrieved February 27, 2012.
- "Kiki and the History of Red Ribbon Week". Drug Enforcement Administration. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- Gorman, Peter "Big-time Smuggler's Blues." Cannabis Culture. Thursday June 15, 2006
- Beith, Malcolm (2010). The Last Narco. New York, New York: Grove Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-8021-1952-0.
- "Camarena Investigation Leads to Operation Leyenda" (pdf 1.73MB). A Tradition of Excellence, History:1985–1990. DEA. January 15, 2009. p. 64. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- "Bodyguard Is Convicted in Case With Links to Drug Agent's Death". The New York Times. August 7, 1990.
- "Central Figure Is Convicted In '85 Killing of Drug Agent". The New York Times. August 1, 1990.
- "Thirty Years Of America's Drug War". Frontline. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- "Interviews - Jack Lawn - Drug Wars". Frontline. PBS. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- ""Te CIA helped kill DEA agent Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena," say witnesses". El País (Spain) (in Spanish). 15 October 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
- "Enrique S. Camarena Foundation". Camarenafoundation.org. February 7, 2010. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
- Heroes Under Fire: Righteous Vendetta. aetv.com
- ¿O Plata O Plomo? The abduction and murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena silverorlead.com
- Andreas Lowenfeld, "Mexico and the United States, an Undiplomatic Murder," in Economist, 30 March 1985.
- Andreas Lowenfeld, "Kidnapping by Government Order: A Follow-Up," in American Journal of International Law 84 (July 1990): 712–716.
- U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Drug Enforcement Administration Reauthorization for Fiscal Year 1986: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Crime. May 1, 1985 (1986).
- DEA biography of Camarena
- "Enrique Camarena". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
- Zaid, Mark S. "Military might versus sovereign right: the kidnapping of Dr. Humberto Alvarez-Machain and the resulting fallout." Houston Journal of International Law. Northern hemisphere Spring of 1997.