Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
Your story about Red Ribbon Week is well written, but it doesn’t go far enough about the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. There are in fact two DEAs. The first is totally political — it is charged with creating and maintaining draconian drug laws that affect the entire world. The second is the DEA of the agents — the men and women who enforce the laws at great personal risk.
Enrique (Quiqui) Camarena was one of those agents. Your story did not fully describe the events surrounding his death. It was more than a killer and a physician who tortured him for over 24 hours. It was half a dozen men operating on the orders of a drug cartel. The physician actually kept him alive so the torture could continue. They tape recorded his torture and sent the tapes to the DEA. Imagine the horror of the agents who got and listened to those tapes!
The U.S. government was slow to react, and the reaction was muted because the DEA politicos did not want the “incident” to interfere with other ongoing negotiations with Mexico. Incensed at their superior’s failure to respond, three government employees took action on their own. Quiqui’s supervisor and another agent in his unit made arrangements with a deputy attorney general in California to indict whoever they brought back to the U.S. Only after the fact did the DEA politicos take responsibility for the actions of their agents in kidnapping the physician who kept him alive and bringing him to the U.S. for trial.
And on top of the political machinations of the DEA in not responding instantaneously to this horror, the Mexican government, which also had not responded, actually protested the kidnapping!!
Drug law enforcement is a strange beast. The politicos dictate the laws, and agents enforce them. But virtually every narcotics enforcement officer I have known, whether federal, state, or local, by the time they finish their 25 years and retire, tends to be anti-prohibition, and pro-prevention. There is an organization well known amongst law officers, L.E.A.P. (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), which has few members among active officers but with a large membership among retired officers, whose mission it is to bring the public to awareness of this.
Quiqui Camarena was a hero. I am saddened by the DEA continuing to use his death as a political tool.