December 7, 2022 9:40 pm

Posted: 4.3.2010 15:44

DEA remembers Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena

March 5, 2010 marks the 25 th anniversary of the death of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. No single event had a more significant impact on the DEA than the abduction and murder of Special Agent Camarena. His kidnapping and violent death brought the American public face-to-face with the vicious brutality of drug trafficking.

“Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena’s vicious kidnapping, torture, and murder 25 years ago remains a burning reminder of the dangers and high stakes involved in drug law enforcement,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Special Agent Camarena’s murder endures as a turning point in the fight against drug traffickers and the brutal violence they use to oppress others. We and our brave partners will never be intimidated by them. Agent Camarena’s memory gives us strength and increases our resolve to continue his courageous work to put drug traffickers like those responsible for his death out of business and behind bars.”


The annual Red Ribbon Week campaign was sparked by the death of Special Agent Camarena. Within weeks of his death, several leaders and friends in Imperial Valley, California where he lived pledged to lead drug-free lives to honor the sacrifices made by Camarena and others on behalf of all Americans. These “Camarena Clubs” were expanded by parent groups in California, Illinois, and Virginia which promoted the wearing of red ribbons nationwide during one week each October. This effort continued to grow across the country, eventually leading to a proclamation that was presented to then-First Lady Nancy Reagan that brought the program national attention. In 1988, the National Federation of Parents organized the first National Red Ribbon Week, an 8-day event proclaimed by the U.S. Congress and chaired by President and Mrs. Reagan. The Red Ribbon campaign became a symbol of support for DEA’s efforts to reduce demand for drugs through prevention and education programs. Today, the celebration is sponsored by the National Family Partnership (previously known as the Federation for Parents of Drug-Free Youth), and more than 80 million Americans show their commitment to a healthy, drug-free lifestyle by wearing or displaying the Red Ribbon.


Students, teachers, law enforcement officials, prevention experts, and other community leaders will take part in the First Annual Marching for Kiki’s Red Ribbon to commemorate the 25 th anniversary of his death. This march will take place on Saturday, March 6 at the City Heights Farmers Market in San Diego. Registration begins at 8:30 am and the march begins at 9:30 am. Following the march, there will be a festival in Urban Village Park that will feature food, prizes, and other activities. For registration information, please call the Substance Abuse Momentum Team at (619) 582-9056.


Kiki Camarena’s murder led to the most comprehensive homicide investigation ever undertaken by DEA, which ultimately uncovered corruption and complicity by numerous Mexican officials. Operation Leyenda was established in May 1985 to coordinate and investigate the abduction of Camarena. Ultimately, DEA was successful in securing indictments of several individuals connected to the abduction and murder. In retrospect, Operation Leyenda was a long and complex investigation, made more difficult by the fact that the crime was committed on foreign soil and involved major drug traffickers and corrupt government officials from Mexico.