Release of DEA Agent Kiki Camarena’s "Murderer" Is Game Changer for CIA
Narco-Trafficker Rafael Caro Quintero Knows Where All the Skeletons Are Buried in the US’ Dirty Drug War
The recent release from a Mexican prison of Rafael Caro Quintero — a godfather in Mexico’s narco-trafficking world — rips a scab off a long metastasizing tumor in the US drug war.
A Mexican federal court on Friday, Aug. 9, overturned Caro Quintero’s 40-year sentence after 28 years served because, the court contends, he was tried wrongly in a federal court for a state offense. Caro Quintero was convicted of orchestrating the brutal torture and murder of US DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena — who was abducted on Feb. 7, 1985, after leaving the US Consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico, to meet his wife for lunch. His body was found several weeks later buried in a shallow grave some 70 miles north of Guadalajara.
Caro Quintero’s release from prison brings to the surface once again some longstanding, unsettled questions about the US government’s role in the war on drugs. The recent mainstream media coverage of Caro Quintero’s release has focused, in the main, on the shock and anger of US officials — who are now waving the Camarena case in the public arena like a bloody flag, arguing his honor, and that of the nation’s, must be avenged in the wake of Mexico’s affront in allowing Caro Quintero to walk free.
What is not being discussed is the US government’s complicity in Caro Quintero’s narco-trafficking business, and, yes, even in the Camarena’s gruesome murder.
Breaking It Down
In his definitive book about the US drug war, titled “Down by the River,” journalist Charles Bowden reveals that DEA special agent Camarena spent some time in Mexico with another DEA agent, Phil Jordan, in May 1984, prior to Camarena’s abduction. Jordan, at the time, pointed out to Camarena that they were being followed.
Camarena replied calmly that the individuals who were tailing them worked for Mexico’s intelligence service, the Federal Security Directorate, or DFS in its Spanish initials.
From Bowden’s book:
Camarena brushes off Jordan’s alarm by noting that DFS is trained by the CIA and is functionally a unit in their mysterious work. And he says they are also functionally “the eyes and ears of the cartels.”
That is a stunning revelation, that the CIA and DFS were “functionally” working in unison and simultaneously the DFS also was in league with Mexico’s narco-traffickers — which at the time included Caro Quintero along with his partners Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, considered the top dogs in Mexico’s then-dominate drug organization, The Guadalajara Cartel.
In fact, the DFS also was accused of being complicit in the kidnapping and murder of Camarena and the subsequent attempt to provide protection to Caro Quintero — who was eventually apprehended in Costa Rica after allegedly getting to that country with the help of the DFS.
Caro Quintero, Felix Gallardo and Fonseca Carrillo were eventually convicted and jailed for their roles in Camarena’s murder and the killing of his pilot, Alfrado Zavala Avelar. Each was sentenced to serve 40 years in a Mexican prison. Caro Quintero was 37 at the time.
But Camarena was not the only victim of DFS corruption during that era. A famous Mexican journalist, Manuel Buendia, who in the mid-1980s was investigating the connections between corrupt Mexican officials and narco-traffickers, including Caro Quintero, was murdered in 1984 allegedly with the assistance of DFS’ leadership.
A story by noted Mexican newspaper columnist Carlos Ramirez, translated and published by Narco News in 2000, describes the circumstances surrounding Buendia’s murder as follows:
Buendía was assassinated on May 30, 1984, on a street near the Zona Rosa of México City. The investigation was covered-up by the Federal Security Agency [DFS]. The last investigations undertaken by Buendía into drug trafficking led him into the rural indigenous areas of the country. Buendía had responded to a newspaper ad by the Catholic bishops in the south of the country where they denounced the penetration of the narco in rural Mexico but also the complicity of the Army and police corps.
Buendía did not finish his investigation. His assassination came almost a year before... the assassination of US anti-drug agent Enrique Camarena Salazar in Guadalajara had exposed the penetration of drug traffickers in the Mexican police.
… Agents of the the Political and Social Investigations Agency and of the Federal Security Agency were discovered as protectors of drug trafficking in México. The Attorney General of the Republic, in the investigation of the assassination of Camarena, found credentials of the Federal Security police in the name of drug traffickers. Caro Quintero escaped to Costa Rica using a credential of the Federal Security Agency [DFS] with his photo but with another name. ….
That which Buendía was investigating months before was confirmed by the assassination of Camerena, a DEA agent assigned to the US Consulate in Guadalajara. …
The DFS was disbanded in 1985, after Camarena’s murder, and integrated into Mexico’s version of the CIA, called CISEN in its Spanish initials. CISEN still works closely with US agencies and officials, including the CIA, but it is the legacy of DFS and its partnership with the CIA that is being brought to the surface once again with the recent release of Caro Quintero.
In particular, a DEA Report of Investigation, prepared in February 1990 and obtained by Narco News, provides some detailed insight into the DFS/CIA connection. The DEA report was referenced in media coverage of the US trial of four individuals accused of playing a role in Camarena’s murder.
From a July 5, 1990, report in the Los Angeles Times:
The [DEA] report is based on an interview two Los-Angeles based DEA agents conducted with Laurence Victor Harrison, a shadowy figure who, according to court testimony, ran a sophisticated communications network for major Mexican drug traffickers and their allies in Mexican law enforcement in the early and mid 1980s.
On Feb. 9, according to the report, Harrison told DEA agents Hector Berrellez and Wayne Schmidt that the CIA used Mexico's Federal Security Directorate (DFS) "as a cover, in the event any questions were raised as to who was running the training operation."
That training operation, according to the DEA Report of Investigation, involved “Guatemalan Guerrillas” who “were training at a ranch owned by Rafael Caro-Quintero” in Veracruz on Mexico’s East Coast.
More from the DEA report:
The operations/training at the camp were conducted by the American CIA, using the DFS as cover, in the event any questions were raised as to who was running the [camp].
…. Representatives of the DFS, which was the front for the training camp were in fact acting in consort with major drug overlords to insure a flow of narcotics through Mexico and into the United States.
… Using the DFS as cover, the CIA established and maintained clandestine airfields to refuel aircraft loaded with weapons, which were destined for Honduras and Nicaragua.
Pilots of these aircrafts would allegedly load up with cocaine in Barranquilla, Colombia, and in route to Miami, Florida, refuel in Mexico at narcotic trafficker operated and CIA maintained airstrips.
Tosh Plumlee was one of the CIA contract pilots flying drug loads into the US at the time. Plumlee told Narco News that among the places where his aircraft landed while working these missions was the Caro Quintero-owned ranch in Veracruz, Mexico.
“I was flying sanctioned operations transporting cocaine out of Colombia and into the United States,” Plumlee says. “[DEA agent Kiki] Camarena knew all about those operations.”
Plumlee attempted to blow the whistle on the arms-and-drugs transshipment operations in the early 1980s, prior to Camarena’s death.
The following excerpts are from a February 1991 letter written by former US Sen. Gary Hart and sent to US Sen. John Kerry, then chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Communications.
In March of 1983, Plumlee contacted my Denver Senate Office and met with Mr. Bill Holen of my Senate Staff. During the initial meeting, Mr. Plumlee raised certain allegations concerning U.S. foreign and military policy toward Nicaragua and the use of covert activities by U.S. Intelligence agencies.
… Mr. Plumlee also stated that Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala and El Salvador were providing U.S. military personnel access to secret landing field and various staging areas scattered throughout Central America.
He specifically cited the Mexican government’s direct knowledge of illegal arms shipments and narcotic smuggling activities that were taking place out of a civilian ranch in the Veracruz area which were under the control and sponsorship of Rafael Caro-Quintero and the Luis Jorge Ochoa branch of the Medellin Escobar Cartel.
… Mr. Plumlee raised several issues including that covert U.S. intelligence agencies were directly involved in the smuggling and distribution of drugs to raise funds for covert military operations against the government of Nicaragua. …
Heads in the Sand
Even prior to Caro Quintero’s surprise prison release on Aug. 9, it appears he was being allowed to carry out his narco-business from a comfortable jailhouse condo with little interference from authorities in Mexico. As evidence of that fact, in June of this year DEA announced that the US Department of the Treasury had “designated 18 individuals and 15 [business] entities” as being linked to Rafael Caro Quintero.
“Today’s action,” the DEA press release states, “pursuant to the Kingpin Act, generally prohibits US persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with these designees, and also freezes any assets they may have under US jurisdiction.”
In other words, the US government is alleging that even while he was incarcerated, Caro Quintero continued to run his drug empire through third parties who were laundering millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains on his behalf.
How is that possible, unless Caro Quintero continues to have extremely good connections within the Mexican government that have an interest in assuring his drug money is laundered?
If that’s the case, why would those same government officials have any interest in extraditing him to the US to stand trial?
Similarly, why would those with any real juice in the US government want to put Caro Quintero on trial, at least in an open court, if he has the knowledge to expose corrupt covert US operations that played a role in the murder of a US DEA agent?
The only way to hide that complicity would be to shield Caro Quintero’s trial from public view under a national-security cloak — even though the charges against him are criminal in nature (drug-trafficking and murder) and should not implicate national security. As further evidence of that fact, the CIA has already told the media that the allegations about the Agency's involvement in Caro Quintero’s Veracruz ranch are bogus.
''The whole story is nonsense,'' CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield told the Associated Press in 1990. ''We have not trained Guatemalan guerrillas on that ranch or anywhere else.''
But its worth noting that since the CIA issued that statement, a UN-sponsored truth commission found that the US, through agencies like the CIA, did play a role in training the death squads responsible for murdering or disappearing some 200,000 Guatemalans – most of them civilians – during the course of that nation’s bloody 34-year civil war. Some 626 massacres played out in the 1980s alone, when the CIA-sponsored Veracruz, Mexico, "Guatemalan Guerrilas" training operation was allegedly underway.
From a 1999 Washington Post story on the truth commission’s findings:
… The commission found that the "government of the United States, through various agencies including the CIA, provided direct and indirect support for some state operations."
... Documenting the atrocities, the report found the army "completely exterminated Mayan communities, destroyed their dwellings, livestock and crops" and said that in the northern part of the country, where the Mayan population is largest, the army carried out a systematic campaign of "genocide."
Given that backdrop, it appears Caro Quintero, now 61, is clearly a man who may well know too much about US national security operations.
The DEA issued a statement after Caro Quintero was ordered released from prison, making it clear, at least from a public-relations perspective, that the agency still very much wants to track him down and put him behind bars in the US.
The Drug Enforcement Administration is deeply troubled to learn of the decision by a Mexican court to release infamous drug trafficker Rafael Caro-Quintero from a Mexican prison. Caro-Quintero had been serving a 40 year prison sentence in connection with the kidnapping, torture and murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in February 1985.
Caro-Quintero was the mastermind and organizer of this atrocious act. We are reminded every day of the ultimate sacrifice paid by Special Agent Camarena and DEA will vigorously continue its efforts to ensure Caro-Quintero faces charges in the United States for the crimes he committed.
But why stop with Caro Quintero? Why not go after everyone who had a hand in the drug-war corruption that led to Camarena’s death? Why isn’t DEA clamoring for that outcome?
I think we all know the answer to that question. And you can bet Caro Quintero does as well, and will do everything in is power to assure he isn’t held up as the lone scapegoat in some drug-war fairy tale.
So what are our drug-war warriors to do when faced with such a house of mirrors? Well, that’s what rival narco-traffickers and shadowy intelligence-agency assets are used for in the Big Game, no?