"I won't survive this. But know what else? Neither will you." ― Kiki to Félix GallardoEnrique Camarena (1947 – 1985) was an American DEA Special Agent who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the Guadalajara cartel in 1985 while on an assignment in Mexico.
After completing his education, he served in the US Marines for three years, attaining a rank of Lance Corporal. After his discharge, he briefly had a stint working as a fireman before eventually joining the Drug Enforcement Administration at their Calexico office in 1975. He was later transferred to the Fresno office of the DEA.
He married Geneva Camarena, and fathered two children.
Going after the Guadalajara cartelEdit
Arrival in GuadalajaraEdit
In 1980, fearing that his career might stagnate, Kiki requests a transfer to Miami, however one of his coworkers gets the job. Frustrated, Kiki picks the only other location available: Guadalajara, Mexico.
He arrived in Guadalajara at the same time as Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, his future target. After settling his family, he visited the US Consulate to meet up with his team. He worked under bureau leader James Kuykendall, along with Special Agents Butch Sears and Roger Knapp.
Kiki's enthusiasm wanes after finding out that all the DEA did was buy drinks for police officers and go on phony raids, taking a 'prize' given to them by the smugglers as a bribe. At the Camelot bar, state trooper Sammy Alvarez gives a brief introduction of the local law enforcement. He follows Juan José Esparragoza Moreno, a high ranking officer of the Mexican DFS into the washroom, and points out dried blood in the latter's shoes.
During his first raid in an abandoned farm house, along with their regular prize, he comes across the body of Hernan Naranjo. Hernan controlled marijuana smuggling in Guadalajara along with his brother, Hernin, whose body was found in the Hotel Americas the day prior. Kiki quickly notes that a new player had moved into the town, as the price of weed remained the same despite the death of two major traffickers. He noticed Esparragoza Moreno standing outside the farm house, and later driving off.
A few days later, Kiki again finds Esparragoza Moreno driving into a warehouse in the middle of the city. Kiki stations himself outside the warehouse and notes the vehicles and guards passing through. He passes the information to Kuykendall, who tells him that they need local support to conduct raids, and that getting the Mexican Federal Judicial Police to do their job was "like trying a cat to play ball". Nevertheless, Jaime convinces the MFJP to conduct the raid. The Mexican police commander tells the Americans to follow him, but the Americans ignore him and sneak up from the behind and come across a lone truck in a shed. The Mexican commander opens the cabin, and finds it filled with plastic rods (which were destined to the Rancho Búfalo).
Still determined, Kiki begins following a car to the countryside. However, his car breaks down and he is left stranded in the middle of the desert. Trucks carrying blindfolded men with armed guards drive past him, and Kiki follows their trail and deduces that there is an illegal operation going on.
The DEA then request the Mexican government to fly surveillance flights over the deserts outside Jalisco; but however, after three months of waiting, the Mexican government sent them a few pictures of the empty desert. The rest of the DEA team conclude that the "superfarm" doesn't exist since it would be impossible to grow marijuana in the middle of a desert, but Kiki points out that the plastic pipes they found were part of an irrigation system, and noted that the price of marijuana has stabilized across the United States despite the deaths of Pedro Avilés and the Naranjo brothers. A verbal altercation between Kiki and Sears over the inefficiency of the DEA's methods of operation nearly turned into a physical fight before Knapp and Kuykendall intervened.
Later, Kuykendall learned from Alfredo Zavala Avelar, a Mexican pilot who flew for the CIA-funded weed eradication program that the photos given to the DEA were taken by Zavala over a year ago.
That night, Kiki drove back to the countryside, and began following a convoy of vehicles headed towards the superfarm. The convoy stopped at a restaurant, where farm workers disembarked to have dinner. One of the workers allowed Kiki to join the platoon in exchange for half the pay.
By sunrise, the convoy arrived at Rancho Búfalo. Kiki spent all day harvesting marijuana from the farm. While having lunch, he notices Esparagozza Moreno and Tomas Morlet visiting the farm, and hides from them. However, while leaving, Esparagozza spots him in the crowd and began following him. Kiki gets into the bus and wears the mask given to him before Esparagozza identified him. After getting back to the restaurant, he calls the office, but Suzy tells him that Mika is in labour, and his neighbout Antonio Vargas took her to the hospital. Kiki rushes back to the hospital in Guadalajara, and reunited with his wife after she delivered a baby girl.
Later, the DEA agents attend a meeting with Edward Heath, the Director of Operations in Mexico and John Gavin, the American ambassador in Mexico. Kuykendall requested the ambassador to apply pressure on the Mexicans to give away Félix Gallardo, but Heath said the drop in drug-related violence after the formation of the Guadalajara cartel was more beneficial to the Americans and didn't want to risk it by going after the cartel's superfarm.
With DFS agents routinely sabotaging attempts by the DEA to spy on Félix Gallardo, Kiki and the other agents sat idly hoping for a lucky breakthrough, which they got when cartel co-founder Rafael Caro Quintero kidnapped Sofia Conesa, the daugter of a high-ranking Mexican government official.
Corruption in MexicoEdit
After Caro Quintero absconded with the help of Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, the Mexican government sent MFJP subcomandate Guillermo Calderoni to Guadalajara to hunt down Caro Quintero. Kiki, Jaime and Sears met Calderoni at the MFJP office and shared all the information which they'd gathered on him, including all the buildings used by Caro Quintero.
The DEA accompanied Calderoni as the MFJP raided all the locations, but were unable to find Caro Quintero. The police officers shot up the houses and broke furniture to send a message to Caro. Desperate for information, Kiki agreed to let Calderoni get information from Javier Contreras, a low-level member of Caro's organization. When Contreras refused to give away the location of Caro Quintero, Calderoni proceeded to beat him up, angering Kiki since he had worked him for more than two months. On their way back, Calderoni informed him that Rafael had sent Sofia back home, and it was found that they both were in love and they staged a fake kidnapping. Kiki believed that Rafael might try to contact Sofia again through telephone, and suggested Calderoni to let Vargas, an employee of a telecommunications company, to wiretap Sofia's house.
With Vargas' help, the manage to locate Caro Quintero's safehouse. Calderoni assembled a team of MFJP officers including Méndez, and they surround the house, and slowly began moving in, taking out the guards one by one without alerting Rafael. Kiki and Calderoni then made their way to the doorsteps of the estate, but however, Méndez informed Calderoni that the operation was called off by their superiors. As the Mexican federal policemen began leaving the scene, Kiki slowly walked towards the house, and saw a glimpse of Caro Quintero along with his lieutenants Cuco and Chapo. Outside the house, Kiki and Calderoni nearly had a physical altercation over the inefficieny of the Mexican policing system.
DFS agent Tomas Morlet pulled Mika over, locked her in his car and briefly had a chat with Kiki's son in order to indirectly send a warning to Kiki for interfering in the cartel affairs. Kuykendall filed a complaint against the DFS to the MFJP and the American Embassy, but neither sent a response.
The DEA agents decide that the only way to focus the American spotlight on Félix Gallardo was to give them the data of the cash he's been pulling from the drug business. Knapp informed them that the Spanish division of the DEA urged the Spanish police to request a wiretap on the Hotel Americas, the headquarters of the Guadalajara cartel. Since the request was made from Spain and not the USA, the Mexican police approved it; allowing them to get a backdoor on Félix Gallardo's operation without getting approval from Heath.
With the wire tap on the hotel in place, the DEA began fully understanding the sheer scale of Félix Gallardo's organization. The cartel employed scores of accountant and a full time secretary to handle DFS bribes. They found out about the payroll for cops, enforcers, field workers and drivers; code names for over 100 big and small politicians and payment receipts for everything from fuel and farm equipment to strawberry soda. The most important discovery was that Félix Gallardo kept all his money at the El Paso Savings and Trust, a bank in Texas.
Kiki finds out from the wiretaps that Félix Gallardo was not at his office, as he went to Colombia to negotiate his entry into the cocaine smuggling business with the Cali cartel. Kiki also found out that Félix Gallardo's chequebook was at his office, and suggested that he would sneak into the Félix's office at the Hotel Americas and recover it.
With the help of Suzy, the DEA team distract the DFS agents stalking the DEA agents, allowing Kiki to stealthily make it to the Hotel Americas. Kiki booked a room, and got into the elevator. Two DFS agents also get in, and Kiki gave them a fake business card saying that he was an agricultural engineer. Kiki got down at the fifth floor and made it to Félix's office and found the ledger. He copied bits of information into his notepad, and as he attempted to leave, saw Morlet at the end of the corridor. Kiki ran back inside the apartment and began to hide, but forgot to close the door. Morlet noticed the open door and wandered inside Félix's office, but did not detect Kiki and left.
The team passed the information the US Treasury, and find out that nearly $30 million are moved through these accounts every week. Hower, DEA Administrator Francis Mullen called Kuykendall and informed him the State Department declined to support their mission, as they were more concerned with the Mexicans paying back their debts after the PEMEX crisis.
Meanwhile, the Mexican Attorney-General's office informed the DFS about the DEA's activities in Guadalajara. Salvador Osuna Nava, the Director-General of the DFS, sent a DFS team to attack Roger Knapp's house while he was inside with his family. The DFS family shot down several windows, and also shot down Knapp's cars, while his family was left unhurt. The DFS also sent Morlet to ask if Vargas knew about the man Kiki pretended to be when he met those DFS agents at the elevator in the Hotel Americas. When Vargas said that he didn't know, Morlet shot him to death. As Kiki expressed regret over Vargas' death, Sears tells him that Knapp is being sent back to the United States, and the DEA are not sending any replacement. Kiki then decided that the only way to nab Félix was to lure him to the United States.
Kiki went to Laredo to work with Jim Ferguson, the DEA Station Chief there. Kiki and Jim seize one of the cartel's airplanes, and recover several important documents about Félix's bank fraud and money fraud by hiding money in the United States. They discover the name of Félix's American contact, a banker named Thomas Buehl; and they both nab him and force him to work for them. They make him call Félix and tell him to urgently come to the United States to sign on very important documents. Kiki and Jim waited at the American side of the border, and saw Félix Gallardo approach the border crossing.
However, Félix got a phone call from the telephone at the guard booth at the Mexican side of the border, and left his car and walked back into Mexico, angering the DEA agents at the American side. They didn't know it at that time, but the call which Félix got was made by Andrés, the Mexican Secretary of Defense.
With support from the Mexican government, Félix Gallardo between cocaine into the United States for the Cali and Medellín cartels. Between March and June 1984, the amount of cocaine entering the United States surged by 60%. The Guadalajara cartel moved four tons of cocaine a month.
Kiki and Jaime then meet Captain Zavala after the US Agricultural Department ended the eradication program, and convince him to help the DEA survey the Rancho Búfalo despite the heavy risks.
While having lunch with his son in Guadalajara, Kiki noticed Félix exiting a building all alone. Kiki yelled at Félix as he began striding towards him, but the drug lord ignored him and drove away. Kiki tells his wife that he can't leave Mexico without doing something to make sure that Félix knows his name.
Rancho Búfalo raidEdit
Using the photos he obtained after flying over the cartel's superfarm, the DEA convinced the Mexican Army to back-channel a raid. Kiki, Sears and Kuykendall accompanied the Mexican Army as the raided the weedfarm in November 1984, and he briefly engaged in a firefight with Caro Quintero; however Caro Quintero escaped.
The weedfarm produced a third of the marijuana consumed in the United States, and the raid resulted in the destruction of marijuana worth $2.5 billion in 1984.
While the DEA celebrated the raid, Félix brushed it off as he diverted his attention towards the thriving cocaine industry. However, Caro Quintero was left devastated and became increasingly paranoid due to his cocaine addiction and infatuation with Sofia.
The House Foreign Affairs Committe sent two investigators to the Mexican DEA office, and Kiki and Kuykendall briefed them on the raid, and the DEA hoped that it would convince the American government to increase the resources allocated the DEA and green-light the operation to end Félix's cartel.
With only a few days left till Kiki's departure to the US, he and his wife roamed around a traditional market, making plans for their children. On February 7 1985, Kuykendall invited Kiki to the Camelot, and told him that the meeting went poorly. The Committe decided to not act before the State Department, and recommended the DEA to not take any action against the cartel until further notice. Kiki then left Camelot to have lunch with his wife. As he unlocked his car, Sammy Alvarez, now wearing civilian clothes called him and informed that his commander wanted to see him.
Kiki noticed Morlet getting out of a car, and found out that something was wrong. Before he could react, two DFS agents threw a blindfold over his face from behind, assaulted him and dragged him to Morlet's car, slamming his head before shoving him inside. Inside, his hands were tied with a zip tie. Morlet's car was escorted to 881 Lope de Vega, a mansion owned by Rubén Zuno Arce, by the state police. He was taken to a room in the first floor. As Delgado readied the amphetamines, Kiki noticed Félix at the doorway, and they both stared at each other, before Félix ordered Morlet to begin the torture.
DFS commander Sergio Espino Verdin tortured both Kiki and Alfredo Zavala Avelar, who was also kidnapped by armed policemen. Camarena was tortured for over a 30-hour period, then murdered. His skull was punctured by a metal object, and his ribs were broken . He may have been injected with drugs, most likely to ensure that he remained conscious while being tortured. Camarena's body was found wrapped in plastic in a rural area outside the small town of La Angostura, in the state of Michoacán, on March 5, 1985.
Kiki resisted Verdin at first, but eventually gave in, and told him everything that he knew. However, none of the information satisfied Verdin, who had the torture session recorded. Verdin was instructed to find out if Kiki knew the names of any politicians involved with the cartel, but Kiki didn't. Verdin believed that Kiki was lying and prolonged the torture, and had physician Delgado inject adrenaline to prolong Kiki's life, which the physician did with enjoyment.
Kiki and Zavala briefly spoke to each other while the interrogaters took a break. Kiki urged Zavala to speak the truth. Later, in midst of the torture session, Félix visited Kiki. Félix told him to tell the interrogaters what they wanted to hear, and also that just like Kiki, he too was a normal family man; but he believed that instead of being controlled by the world, the world should be controlled by him. Kiki told him that he knew that he wouldn't leave the compound alive, but also promised him that Félix's organization wouldn't last for much longer.
The bodies of Kiki and Zavala were dumped on a road outside a ranch owned by the Bravo family, a family of lawmakers who opposed the PRI party. The body was discovered after the DEA and the MFJP raided the ranch, resulting in the death of 5 civilians. Kiki's body was examined by American Navy physicians in the embassy, and was flown back to San Diego, where he was buried with full honors.
"Kiki was like Jesus to us. He died to save us all." ― DEA Agent Steve MurphyKiki gained God-like status within the DEA soon after his death. His death transformed the DEA from a relatively under-funded American agency to one of the narcotraffickers' most feared organizations. The DEA doubled it's size after Kiki's death, and began aggressively clamping down on drug cartels.
Within months of Kiki's deaths, Guadalajara cartel leaders Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo were arrested by the Mexican police and received lengthy sentences. Félix was nearly forced to flee Mexico, but escaped arrest by bribing Calderoni despite being held at gunpoint. Several corrupt police officers like Armando Pavón Reyes were fired, and others like Morlet were killed. In addition to that, the DEA launched Operation Leyenda, and aggressively hunted down Félix Gallardo, resulting in his arrest in 1989. The DEA retribution led to increased border checks after the American government threatened to completely block access to Mexico. This led to a massive increase in cocaine and marijuaa seizures, nearly bankrupting Félix's organization. Félix was forced to his associates with his own pockets. The toll of the DEA retribution was not limited to Mexico. Leyenda's effects were also seen in countries like Colombia, where he even feared narcoterrorist Pablo Escobar's men refused to kill DEA agents, allowing agents like Steve Murphy and Javier Peña to operate freely despite having bounties upwards of $300,000 on their heads.
Even if Kiki failed to bring down the cartel while he was alive, his death began a feud between the Guadalajara cartel and the Cali cartel; which would eventually lead to Guadalajara cartel's fragmentation. Hélmer Herrera told Miguel that the murder of Kiki Camarena was the stupidest decision he could make.
|"The Plaza System"|
|"Rafa, Rafa, Rafa!"|
|"The Colombian Connection"|
|"La Última Frontera"|
|"Jefe de Jefes"|
|"Just Say No"|
|"811 Lope de Vega"|