NarcoNews: Assassinated DEA Agent Kiki Camarena Fell in a CIA Operation Gone Awry

He Was Killed, They Say, Because "He Knew Too Much" About Official Corruption in the Drug War

By Bill Conroy

DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was abducted in early February 1985 shortly after leaving the US consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico. His body was found several weeks later, partially decomposed, wrapped in a plastic death shroud and buried in a shallow grave some 70 miles north of the Mexican city.

One of the chief architects of Camarena’s kidnapping, brutal torture and ultimate death, Rafael Caro Quintero, was released prematurely on Aug. 9 from a Mexican prison, by order of a Mexican federal court, after having served 28 years of a 40-year-sentence for the crime. His release caused an outcry among US law enforcers and officials, who contend his freedom is an affront to justice and to the memory of Camarena.

Several recent reports in the US and Mexican media, however, have raised questions about the real story behind Camarena’s murder. Those stories are based on interviews with several individuals who are familiar with the case, including the DEA agent who was charged with investigating Camarena’s slaying, the now-retired Hector Berrellez.

The other two individuals also knew Camarena personally and were intimately familiar with the US government operations Camarena was allegedly investigating prior to his abduction and murder. One of those men is former DEA agent Phil Jordan, who used to head the El Paso Intelligence Center, located in far West Texas along the Mexican border; the other is Tosh Plumlee, a long-time CIA operative, pilot, and, since then, whistleblower.

The mainstream press stories — published by Fox News and The El Paso Times in the US, and Proceso in Mexico — raise the specter of CIA involvement in Camarena’s death. Proceso's coverage went as far as to claim the CIA ordered Camarena’s murder.

But CIA officials released a statement to the media claiming that “it’s ridiculous to suggest that the CIA had anything to do with the murder of a U.S. federal agent or the escape of his killer [Caro Quintero].”

Narco News, however, has uncovered previously unreported information about the Camarena case, following independent interviews with Berrellez, Jordan, Plumlee and others — that confirms Caro Quintero was, in fact, protected by CIA assets in the weeks after Camarena’s murder and that the DEA agent’s abduction may well be connected to what a renowned Mexican journalist had uncovered just prior to his assassination in Mexico in 1984.

All of the recent mainstream press stories alleging CIA links to Camarena’s murder followed the publication in early August of Narco News’ story about Caro Quintero’s release from a Mexican prison. It was Narco News’ story that pointed out that the CIA’s fingerprints were all over the Camarena case — an observation that other journalists, such as Chuck Bowden, had advanced in the past, back in the 1990s.

CIA Revelations

Former CIA contract pilot Plumlee told Narco News during the course of a series of recent interviews that after Camarena’s murder in early February 1985, he was ordered by his CIA handlers to fly into a ranch located near Veracruz, Mexico.

That ranch, he claims and DEA documents show, was controlled by the narco-trafficker Caro Quintero. It also was being used by the CIA — which was operating there using Mexico’s intelligence service, the Federal Security Directorate, as a cover. The Federal Security Directorate, or DFS in its Spanish initials, has since been reorganized and rebranded as CISEN, which still works closely with US officials and agencies, including the CIA.

The Veracruz ranch was being used as a drugs-and-weapons transshipment location — part of a larger effort to fund and supply the US-trained Contra guerrillas.

That covert effort was at the root of a scandal known asIran/Contra, which played out during President Ronald Reagan’s second term in the 1980s. One facet of the scandal involved illegally raising money via arms sales to Iran to fund the Nicaraguan Contra’s counter-insurgency campaign against the government of Nicaragua. Another part of the scandal also implicated the CIA and the White House National Security Council in alleged U.S.-sanctioned narcotics and arms trafficking.

Investigative journalist Gary Webb further bolstered the claims of the U.S. government’s involvement in narco-trafficking in his now-famous Dark Alliance series published in 1996 by the San Jose Mercury News.

Plumlee contends that at some point after Camarena’s murder, Caro Quintero was transported to the CIA-linked ranch near Veracruz, where Plumlee was ordered to intercept him.

“I was ordered to pick up Caro Quintero at that ranch,” Plumlee told Narco News. “I didn’t really know who he was at the time. But it was a [US government] sanctioned operation.”

Plumlee says he flew Caro Quintero in a Cessna 310 (owned by a “CIA cutout” called SETCO) to a private airstrip located just across the Mexican border in Guatemala.

“I was told to take a person from point A to B, and I did,” Plumlee says, referring to his job as a CIA contract pilot. “If you ask too many questions, you won’t be around too long.”

Plumlee contends another pilot, “also associated with SETCO,” then picked up Caro Quintero in Guatemala and flew him to Costa Rica. (Caro Quintero was ultimately captured in Costa Rica in April 1985, some three months after Camarena was killed.)

After dropping Caro Quintero off in Guatemala, Plumlee says he “assumes” the narco-trafficker was flown into John Hull’s ranch in Costa Rica.

“John Hull's ranch [allegedly] was [another ranch] protected by the CIA and … Hull took advantage of this protection and allowed planes loaded with cocaine to land there, charging $10,000 per landing,” states a US Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (OIG) report issued in 1997.

SETCO, too, was part of the covert Contra-supply effort, according to a 1998 CIA-OIG report:

Read the entire investigative report here at NarcoNews: Click Here

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  1. Agreed. The late Gary Webb’s book “Dark Alliance is an outstanding read. I also recommend Terry Reed’s book “Compromised” which does an excellent job putting the spotlight on the “Enterprise” operation. Moreover, one of the best interviews regarding drug transfers into this country and their associated black programs is the “Ted Gunderson (SSAC, FBI) and Dois Gene “Chip” Tatum. Just Google this and you will find it

  2. Thank You Bill Conroy for this article. It is very important to maintain the documentation of this ugly phase of US policy. We can now more clearly follow the tracks of this history from the formulation of the activities of US ambassador “Necroponte” during his time in Honduras to the death squads operating in Irak, Iran, Libya and now in Syria. Following the tracks of the “Ugly american”.

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