Understanding The Events That Led To The Murder of Field Agent Kiki Camarena and The Whereabouts Of His Family

The United States of American and Mexico are two countries whose relationship is one that oscillates between tension and friendliness. Their shared borders have seen a massive influx of a lot of Mexicans into the US in search of greener pastures. Kiki Camarena is one of such people who moved from Mexico to America and as fate would have it, he became an integral part of American society.

Kiki served as an intelligence officer for the country’s Drug and Enforcement Administration (DEA) where he showed excellent work skills. Unfortunately, the work he did was one of high risk, and one day on the line of duty, he met his doom. In a twist of fate, the Mexican turned American died at the hands of people from his birth country.

Kiki Camarena was One of the Early Recruits of the Drug Enforcement Agency

Kiki Camarena was born Enrique Camarena Salazar on 26th July 1947 in Mexicali, Mexico. The Camarena family moved to the United States when he was a child and by the time he was done with high school, he enlisted into the United States Marine Corps.

After his time at the corps was over in 1970, Kiki joined the police force, and shortly after he became a member of the Narcotics Investigations Unit. The unit was saddled with the responsibility of curbing the activities of drug trafficking. By 1973, the DEA was created by the federal government to also shut down drug trafficking. With most of the drugs in America coming from Mexico, much concentration was on the Mexican border region of the US.

To effectively stifle the efforts of drug pushers from Mexico, the agency needed Spanish speaking agents. Kiki Camarena spoke excellent Spanish and so was recruited to the agency in 1974. His work has been described as being highly effective as he was able to blend in with the streets and take on any persona when he worked undercover. It was no secret that DEA agents were expected to be very focused but in Camarena’s case, he surpassed all the expectations his job had of him.

His Excellent Work Skills Got Him a High Profile Job in the DEA’s Guadalajara Office in Mexico

For his diligence at work, Kiki Camarena went through the ranks quickly and soon became a Special Agent. However, in the DEA, foreign assignments were a much better way to rise through the ranks. Kiki was advised by a friend to apply for a job in the Guadalajara office of the DEA, especially as the workload in the location was increasing.

Kiki applied and in 1980 he was transferred to the DEA office in Guadalajara, Mexico. He spent four and a half years there, overseeing operations, gathering tips and information about drug houses and farms. He was also one of the first agents to crack a novel method of the cultivation of Marijuana. This he was able to do with the help of one of his informants. The DEA agents outside the United States were known to work with a number of informants and Kiki was well versed in the art of working with informants.

The Buffalo Ranch Incident That Claimed Kiki Camarena’s Life

Kiki Camarena
Camarena’s Casket Image Source

A 2500-acre marijuana plantation called Rancho Buffalo in Allende (Chihuahua) was raided in 1984 by over 400 Mexican soldiers. The intel that the Mexican government used to raid the plantation that had an estimated annual production of $8 billion was gotten from the DEA but word on the street was that Kiki Camarena single-handedly got that intel himself.

Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, the owner of the farm and the co-founder of the Guadalajara cartel, decided that someone had to pay for the loss of his highly valued asset. Working with his suspicion of Kiki’s role in his loss, he set his sights on the DEA agent.

Camarena at the time was on the brink of exposing another top drug syndicate that would have implicated corrupt government officials. This prompted corrupt Mexican officials working for the major drug traffickers in Mexico to help with his abduction.

On the 7th of February, 1985, while Kiki Camarena was on his way to have lunch with his wife, he was kidnapped by corrupt police officers in broad daylight and was taken to a residence at 881 Lope de Vega in the Colonia of Jardines del Bosque in the western section of Guadalajara. Kiki was tortured for over 30 hours before he was murdered.

When the DEA realized that Kiki was missing, a search ensued and his body was found on March 5th, 1985, a day short of a month after his abduction. His body was found in the small town of La Angostura in the state of Michoacán. An autopsy showed that the agent had been tortured and was administered medication to keep him alive for more torture. Most of his bones were broken and there was a hole drilled in his skull. Kiki was thirty-seven when he died.

Immediately after the conclusion of his autopsy, the DEA launched Operation Leyenda – which remains the largest DEA homicide investigation to date. Leyenda was launched to hunt down the culprits of Kiki’s kidnapping and death. Top heads of the Guadalajara cartel; Ernesto Fonseca and Rafael Caro Quintero were arrested, tried, and convicted of kidnapping. Miguel Gallardo was not apprehended since he enjoyed political protection.

Kiki Camarena’s Wife Became an Avid Anti-Drug Activist After Her Husband’s Demise

Kiki Camarena
Kiki Camarena with his wife Mika and two sons Image Source

Kiki Camarena was on his way to meet his wife Mika for lunch on the day he was abducted. The two met while they were in high school and got married shortly after they graduated. They have three sons; Enrique J. Camarena, Daniel Camarena, and Eric Camarena.

Following the death of her husband, Mika, who is a retired skincare consultant, returned to the United States and settled in California with her children. In 2004, she created the Enrique S. Camarena Education Foundation and currently serves as the foundation’s president. The goal of the foundation is to educate school children on the dangers of drug abuse and promote drug awareness.

Kiki’s Eldest Son is a Court Judge

Kiki Camarena
Enrique’s Swearing-in ceremony image Source

As mentioned above, Kiki Camarena and his wife had three sons. They all lived in Mexico while their father worked for the DEA, only relocating to the United States for a fresh start to life after he was murdered. Not much is, however, known about how his younger sons; Daniel and Eric, have faired in life.

Kiki’s eldest son on the other hand has certainly made his father proud as he chose to continue the legacy of justice in the family. Enrique S. Camarena Jr., whose life was shaped by the manner of his father’s passing, is a San Diego Superior Court Judge. He went to Dartmouth College where he earned a BA before proceeding to the University of Southern California, Gould School of Law for his JD.

After that, he worked in the Office of the District Attorney of San Diego as the deputy district attorney between 1999 and 2014 before becoming a Superior Court Judge in San Diego in 2014.


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