For me, it was well beyond the end of the beginning, it was the beginning of the end.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was getting more active in Central America, the "Drug Wars" were shifting into high gear . Enrique "Kiki" Camarena was a DEA agent who was kidnapped, tortured and kill in 1985. I had never met "Kiki", or even knew of his existence, prior to his death.
I did know "El Gato", Félix Ismael Rodríguez Mendigutia.
So as not to allow my personal feelings bias the report, this is what Wikipedia says about Félix Ismael Rodríguez Mendigutia, aka"Max Gomez" .
"Born 31 May 1941,
he is a former Central Intelligence Agency officer known for his involvement in the Bay of Pigs Invasion,
in the interrogation and execution of Marxist guerilla Che Guevara and
his ties to George H. W. Bush during the Iran–Contra affair.
He is Cuban of Spanish Basque ancestry.
Félix Ismael Rodríguez, also known as Lázaro, Max Gómez, Félix Ramos Medina, Félix El Gato
One of G.H.W. Bush's resume points was as Director of the CIA,
Felix was a star at the CIA during Mr Bush's tenure there, having been awarded the Intelligence Star at the CIA
The CIA version of the 'Silver Star' in the military, "Max" was and is, a legend in his own time.
I had been made aware of the meeting that was recently reported upon in the Mexican press, "Proceso".
That reporting validates what I had learned, in 1985.
Assertions that high ranking Mexican authorities, Manuel Bartlett Diaz, then the Mexican Secretary of the Interior, and Juan Arevalo Gardoqui, Secretary of Defense, witnessed the torture of the DEA agent, Enrique "Kiki" Camarena.
I had done some of the preliminary interviews with the body guards of the drug trafficker, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo,"Don Netos". He had claimed, reliably seemed to me, that Manuel Bartlett (then Secretary of Interior, now a Senator for the Labor Party (Partido del Trabajo)) had received four billion pesos, not dollars. Other sources referred to this donation as being$320 million.
That money transferred to his accounts in 1984 and was meant to finance his campaign to become a candidate for the Mexican presidency.
He received from a group of drug traffickers that included Rafael Caro Quintero, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo,"Don Neto", Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo and Manuel Salcido Uzeta, "El Cochiloco".
The following is the "Proceso" report of the circumstance leading up to the torturous murder of the DEA agent, Enrique "Kiki" Camarena.
… there is no doubt: the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), drug traffickers, the (Mexican) Army and the Mexican government planned the kidnapping of Kiki Camarena on February 7, 1985.
These statements are consistent with those made to this journal ...
by three former U.S. federal agents -- Hector Berrellez, Phil Jordan and Robert Plumlee-
- who insisted that the CIA was behind the murder of Camarena because the anti-narcotics agent had discovered a secret plan by the agency to arm the Nicaraguan contras with resources obtained from drug trafficking.
"About eight or ten days before the kidnapping of Camarena, I was at a meeting that took place in a house owned by Ernesto Fonseca.
The house was known as 'La Bajadita'.
It was located beside the School of Medicine at the Guadalajara Autonomous University", says Jose I, who in 1985 worked on political and social investigations with the Jalisco Support Squadron (anti-riot) under the command of Federal Judicial Police Commander (PJF) Sergio Espino Verdin.
"Present at the meeting were 'Don Neto', Caro Quintero, Felix Gallardo, 'El Cochiloco';
an Army Colonel whose name I don't know, but whose characteristics I recall:
about 55 years old, not much hair, and he was wearing a suit.
There was also a man there they called Max.
I had seen this person once or twice before this date.
And I found him curious because he was not Mexican", he explains.
- Max was not a Mexican?
- No, no. I found this "Max" strange, and I even laughed at the way he spoke.
- Was he a gringo?
- No, he was not a gringo. He was dark skinned, like us. I bet he was Puerto Rican or Cuban... the ones who always drop a letter when the pronounce a word,-
According to the former policeman, Max "was listening to everything,
he would get close to Rafael and to Ernesto.
That day, 'Don Neto' hardly moved from his desk. There were about 20 people there.
And I'm talking about people very close to them, one hundred percent".
Jose I claims that in that meeting Fonseca showed a photograph in which Antonio Padilla, a local restaurant owner, appeared arm in arm with another person he didn't know at the time, but who he later learned was Kiki Camarena.
"Don Neto" requested that Padilla be killed.
The rest of them were against this because that restaurant owner was working for "El Cochiloco".
But Caro Quintero grabbed the photo and pointing at Camarena, said:
'This son of a bitch is going to die'.
After that, in the presence of the colonel who was there and in front of Max,
who was then between 35 and 40 years old, more or less,
Ernesto said to me:
'Go to the bedroom, take out a stack of money, and please bring me a bottle of cognac that's right by the safe", he says.
"When I came back with the money, 'Don Neto' took it and spoke to the colonel:
'Here, I'm turning it over to you'.
It was all one-hundred dollar bills. (Jose I estimates there was about $20,000)".
"Ernesto asked the colonel:
'Is this enough or do you need more?'
The colonel took the money and put it in his suit pocket",
continues the former policeman.
What was the payment for?
"Nothing was said, it was not explained whether the money was payment for killing Padilla or Camarena. But they never killed Antonio Padilla.
The colonel and Max then left.
The moment these two left, the party started,
they kept on talking and making arrangements.
That day, Ernesto gave me a gift of a million pesos (about $80,000.00).
Jose I states that during those years, he didn't know who Max was.
Today he says that it was the Cuban Felix Ismael Rodriguez, "El Gato", who took part in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and who worked for the CIA in Mexico, Central America, Vietnam and Bolivia, where he captured Che Guevara and ordered his death on October 9, 1967. (Proceso Nos. 1928 and 1929).
The three witnesses to the events surrounding the kidnapping and torture and murder of DEA agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena were all placed in the Federal Witness Protection program during the during the development of Operation Legend, which was the name of the operation investigating Camarena's murder, which is where I came to learn the sorry story.
I would like to thank 'un vato' over at Borderland Beat for the translation of Proceso's reporting.
'Black Jack' Hawkins