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Slain Drug Agent’s Family Relives Horror Through TV Miniseries

January 6, 1990 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Relatives of slain Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique ″Kiki″ Camarena say they plan to watch a TV miniseries on his torture-murder at the hands of Mexican drug traffickers, but they know it will mean reliving the pain.

Camarena’s 65-year-old mother, Dora, said from her home in Calexico, Calif., that she has seen parts of the miniseries, scheduled to air Sunday, Monday and Tuesday on NBC-TV, and it was ″very difficult to watch.″

She plans to see the full program, but wants to get a videotape copy in case she becomes too emotional to watch the TV.


″I want a copy of the movie because I’m not sure I can take it,″ she said in a telephone interview last week. Her words were translated from Spanish to English by her daughter, Myrna, who works for the DEA in San Diego.

Dora Camarena, who lost one son in the Vietnam War and another in the drug war, said she is grateful to the DEA, to the media and to Hollywood for keeping her son’s story alive.

Her daughter said she would watch the full show, even though she’s seen most of it in advance and ″I cried a lot that night because it brought back memories.″

Camarena’s wife, Mika, has not made any public statements about the show.

Myrna Camarena, 35, said she joined the DEA in March 1974 and her brother followed in June of that year, although, ″He was the one who talked me into joining DEA″ when he was working as a narcotics officer for the Calexico police.

He was kidnapped Feb. 7, 1985, in Guadalajara. A few days later, a Mexican pilot who had worked with DEA agents there, Alfredo Zavala Avelar, also was kidnapped. Their bullet-riddled bodies, showing signs of torture, were found March 5, 1985, wrapped in plastic bags and dumped on a ranch 60 miles southeast of Guadalajara.

The miniseries, ″Drug Wars: The Camarena Story,″ recounts Camarena’s efforts to combat drug trafficking in Mexico, his kidnapping, torture and murder and DEA efforts to pressure recalcitrant and sometimes corrupt Mexican officials into finding the agent and prosecuting those who killed him.

Camarena’s mother and sister said they were angered that a Mexican official referred to the miniseries as an ″amusement″ during an interview with The Associated Press following a screening of the movie in Washington.

The Mexican Embassy minister for narcotics affairs, Gustavo Gonzalez Baez - appointed by the new administration of Carlos Salinas de Gortari that has cracked down on drug traffickers and corrupt officials - said Americans ″are accustomed to seeing this kind of series and they realize this is not reality, this is just amusement.″

Noting that the year-old Salinas administration has convicted major drug traffickers and some public officials in connection with the murders and has sentenced them to long prison terms, Gonzalez Baez said the movie suggests ″that all the Mexican authorities were involved in protecting drug traffickers, and that is absolutely inaccurate.″

″It hurts for them to say it’s an amusement because when I saw the movie, my heart felt the same thing that I felt when it actually happened,″ Dora Camarena said. ″It shouldn’t be taken as an amusement.″

She said she was ″very pleased that the new president, Salinas, is cooperating to end corruption,″ but her daughter said, ″This is based on a true story. That is reality. We all know there is corruption in Mexico.″

DEA and State Department officials have praised the Salinas administration’s efforts, but the miniseries doesn’t include that recent history.

DEA Administrator John C. Lawn said in an interview that he considered the miniseries ″about 80 percent accurate,″ while David Westrate, DEA’s director of operations, said, ″There’s a lot of pretend in there.″ Except for Lawn and Camarena, virtually all the DEA personnel depicted in the miniseries are composites based on several real-life people.

For Camarena’s mother, the show brings her son’s work back to life.

″He gave his full strength and everything he could to combat the drug trafficking in a foreign country. He left an example. ... I have a lot of faith, and that keeps me going.″