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Kiki Camarena: Harrowing story of real DEA agent’s torture and murder featured in Narcos: Mexico

Kiki Camarena real photo from Narcos
Kiki Camarena is featured in Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico. Pic credit: Netflix

Kiki Camarena is one of the main characters in Netflix Narcos: Mexico, played by Michael Peña. He was a DEA agent, whose fate is teased in the trailer of the new season.

Many fans who are familiar with the Narcos franchise will recall Camarena’s kidnapping and murder being referenced in the first season of Narcos.  

Javier Pena tells Agent Murphy that he is safe thanks to Kiki. Boyd Holbrook’s character refers to Kiki as “the Jesus of DEA agents”, because “he died to save us all.” Due to the DEA’s response to his death, drug cartels do not attack federal agents due to fear of reprisal. 

Therefore, the murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena is a turning point in how drug cartel operatives deal with U.S law enforcement in Mexico.  

In 1981, Enrique Camarena was transferred to the DEA’s Guadalajara office in Mexico.  

Kiki was an effective agent with his intel leading to seizures of the cartel’s marijuana plantations.  

Kiki Camarena: How did he die? 

Corrupt police officers exposed Kiki’s cover and he was kidnapped in Guadalajara during the day as he left the U.S consulate by men working for cartel boss Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo. 

According to a 1988 New York Times report, his murder was in retaliation for the D.E.A.’s exposure and burning of a multimillion-dollar marijuana farm in the Chihuahua desert. 

Kiki Camarena’s body was found in a remote ranch in Mexico with his skull shattered and broken ribs. 

The DEA agent was tortured for over 24-hours and Dr. Humberto Alvarez Machain was accused by U.S prosecutors of giving the DEA agent stimulants to ensure he remained conscious during his torture.  

An audio recording of his torture 

An audio recording of the 37-year-old’s torture and murder was obtained by the U.S from Mexican authorities. The drug cartel enforcers questioned Camarena on the identity of the drug agency’s informers.  

There is an audio recording of the torture, which took place in a Guadalajara location; however, there is no video footage. Camarena can be heard screaming on the tape as he was brutally tortured. 

Kiki Camarena’s bio and legacy 

Kiki Camarena died in 1985 and was a Drug enforcement agent since 1974. He is survived by his wife Mika and three children. He received many awards for his efforts during his career.  

A foundation was established in his memory and many DEA related events are named after him. Michael Pena spoke to his wife Mika Camarena in research for his role in Narcos: Mexico.

Frank Yemi covers breaking news, TV, and pop culture for Monsters & Critics. He has been a professional writer for more than eight years and... read more
Frank Yemi

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