January 6, 2014
Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat
Three former Mexican police officers, placed in the witness protection program since the 1990’s, gave Proceso details of the kidnapping and torture of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985. But there’s more: these witnesses assert that Manuel Bartlett Diaz, then the Mexican Secretary of the Interior, and Juan Arevalo Gardoqui, Secretary of Defense, witnessed the torture of the DEA agent.
This is the most detailed account I have found of the persons present during the interrogation of Kiki Camarena. –un vato
CALIFORNIA, U.S. (Proceso).- In collaboration with drug traffickers and with the CIA, Miguel Bartlett Diaz and General Juan Arevalo Gardoqui participated in the interrogation of DEA agent Enrique Camarena, who was tortured to death in February of 1985.
This claim is sustained by three former Mexican police officers who are now in the U.S. Federal Witness Protection Program, also known as WITSEC (Witness Security Program). One of them also accuses Bartlett (then Secretary of Interior, now a Senator for the Labor Party (Partido del Trabajo)) of having received four billion dollars(?) [Probably pesos, not dollars. Other sources refer to this amount as $320 million. — un vato] in 1984 to finance his campaign to become a candidate for the Mexican presidency from drug traffickers Rafael Caro Quintero, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo,”Don Neto”, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo and Manuel Salcido Uzeta, “El Cochiloco“.
For the three former police officers — interviewed separately by Proceso and identified for safety reasons as “Jose I”, “Jose II” and “Jose III”– 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 (Editions No. 1928, 1929 and 1932) 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.
Admitted into the protected witnesses program during the development of Operation Legend, charged with investigating Camarena’s murder, the three former Mexican police officers gave Proceso a detailed account of the case, before and after the kidnapping, torture and murder of the DEA agent.
“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.
He states that, on orders from (Espino Verdin), he was part of “Don Neto’s” personal bodyguards.
“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,– says Jose I.
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 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). They had not prepared any drugs to consume, so I mixed them a kilo of bazuco“.
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).
In 1984, Jose II was a member of the Judicial police and was assigned to the area of Homicides in Jalisco. His boss was Commander Jose Maria Carlos Ochoa, and (Carlos Ochoa) assigned him to work under “Don Neto”, for whom he became chief of security.
In July that year, “two individuals came to the ‘Mar Marmara’ house (another of Fonseca’s properties) and asked me if Don Ernesto was there. Inside, in the living room, Fonseca was with Javier Barba Hernandez (lawyer for the Guadalajara Cartel)”, narrates Joe II, and he adds that he showed the two visitors into the house, where they began conversing with their host.
“Then Don Ernesto called for me and said to me: ‘Look, these are people who bring us weapons and grenades’. Javier Barba told me: ‘You’re going to help them fill hand grenades with powder’. ‘Don Neto’ told me that one of them was an Army captain and the other one was with the CIA.”
— Did Fonseca tell you the name of the CIA person?
“They told me only that the CIA person was called Felix, but they didn’t give me his whole name. I knew he was with the CIA because ‘Don Neto” himself told me. That day, the Army captain and the CIA guy brought ‘cuernos de chivo‘ (AK 47) and plenty of hand grenades to the house.
Also in 1984, recalls Jose II, former Jalisco Judicial Police officer, “they took me to the Club Libanes in Colinas de San Javier. My group commander was Ernesto Piliado Garza and the commanding officer was Jose Maria Carlos Ochoa.
“There, they introduced me to Fonseca Carrillo and to Caro Quintero, who were supposed to work for the Department of Interior, and my bosses told me that from that moment on I was to stay with them and take orders from them.”
Jose III states that in the ‘La Bajadita’ house (on Hidalgo Street in Colinas de San Javier, Guadalajara) there were frequent meetings with government officials and high ranking members of the military.
“Among the people who went there frequently was one who spoke with a Cuban accent”, he recalls. Like the other two protected witnesses, Jose III can state with certainty at this time that the person who spoke like a Cuban and was at ‘La Bajadita” is Felix Ismael Rodriguez, “El Gato”.
“It was an open secret during those years in Guadalajara, and among people who worked for ‘Don Neto’, caro Quintero, Felix Gallardo and ‘El Cochiloco’, that the CIA took weapons into Mexico and Nicaragua, and brought cocaine from Colombia into Mexico”, he recalls.
The statements given to Proceso by the three protected witnesses are almost a replica of of what they testified to in the early 1990’s in Federal District Court in the Central District of California.
The three former Mexican police officers and dozens more witnesses testified in the trial of Ruben Zuno Arce, Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros, Jose Bernabe and Javier Vazquez Velasco, accused of drug trafficking and implicated in the murder of Camarena.
Senator Bartlett and General Arevalo Gardoqui (photos below)
As chief of security for “Don Neto”, Jose II states that he was a witness to what took place on February 7, 1985, in the home of Zuno Arce on Lope de Vega Street. That day, in collaboration with Espino Verdin, Guadalajara Cartel members kidnapped Camarena and Department of Agriculture and Hydraulic Resources pilot, Alfredo Zavala Avelar, informant and collaborator of the DEA agent.
Both were taken to the servants’ room in that house and brutally tortured. The pilot died that same day.
“We arrived with Ernesto to the Lope de Vega (Street) house and there were a lot of people already there. I remained outside with the bodyguards and more people began to come out, ‘El Amadito’, ‘El Javier’, people we recognized with the Caro Quintero bodyguards. I looked into the room in the house and, in fact, they had Camarena on a bed , blindfolded and with his feet and hands tied.
“When I first looked, he was the only one in there, but a little later, two hours, more or less, Felix Gallardo and his people arrived, bringing with them a person covered with a green military jacket. His head was covered and he was walking. One of the bodyguards told me he was Camarena’s damned pilot. I saw that they put him in the same room that Camarena was in, the servants’ room”, recalls Jose III.
— Who was inside the Lope de Vega house with Fonseca Carrillo and Caro Quintero?
“Well… in the living room there were General Vinicio Santoyo Feria (Commander of the 15th Military Zone, based in Guadalajara); General Arevalo Gardoqui (then Secretary of Defense); Manuel Bartlett Diaz; Felix, the Cuban, who was with another foreigner whom I didn’t identify nor learn his nationality, Miguel Aldana Ibarra (Director of Interpol-Mexico); Manuel Ibarra Herrer (Director of the PJF–Policia Judicial Federal), Espino Verdin and others”.
— What were all these people doing?
“Talking in the living room. But at a given moment, they all went into the the room where they had Camarena. Everybody was going out of the living room to go look at him. Bartlett, too, went to look at him. I don’t know if Bartlett questioned him, but he looked at Camarena in the servants’ room several times. They were all very nervous, scared, it was a very heavy atmosphere, very tense. One could feel the danger. There was a risk of death”.
— Which of the persons who were not with the narcos did you see interrogate Camarena?
“The Cuban. The Cuban and another foreigner did interrogate Camarena. In other words, Felix and the other person”.
— What did they ask him?
“I don’t know if Camarena answered, because he was already in very bad shape when I saw him. They had already beaten him up a lot. From the beginning, Rafael had ordered his people to beat him to soften him up. He was blindfolded, but his mouth was uncovered so he could talk”.
— How long did Felix and the foreigner stay with Camarena?
“About five or ten minutes. It was like a pilgrimage, like a visit to a church, all politicians, all drug traffickers”.
Jose III says he was not at the Lope de Vega house on February 7, 1985, but he was at the side of Fonseca Carrillo on April 7 that same year in Puerto Vallarta. On that day, “Don Neto” and his people were arrested.
“At that house, he was always listening to the Camarena interrogation. They had recorded all of it”, says the witness. When describing for this journal the room where Camarena was kept, Jose II mentions that there was a tape recorder on top of a dresser with which they recorded the interrogation.
— Did you listen to the recordings (while) in Puerto Vallarta?
“Yes. ‘Don Neto” would play a cassette constantly. It was the cassette in which that chopped voice, Cuban, would ask Camarena who else in the government was involved, what else did he know. And you could hear the blows, the grunts from Camarena, who would say: ‘Stop, please. I told you everything”.
— Why did Fonseca keep playing the recording with the Cuban’s voice?
“I don’t know. He would play it and play it. He would sit smoking his cigarettes and drinking his cognac. He listened to the recording about five times. The Cuban’s voice was very clear. The recording lasted about 30 minutes”.
— What did Fonseca say about the Cuban?
“‘Don Neto’, when he listened to the recording, would say: ‘We are fucked! It’s all screwed up!’ ‘Don Neto’ said that Max worked for the CIA, that he was U.S. intelligence. He would say that Samuel Ramirez Razo, with the DFS (who had taken part in Camarena’s abduction) was with the CIA and was with us. That they were associates of Manuel Bartlett Diaz”.
For Bartlett’s campaign
In the agreement signed with the government of the United States to enter the protected witness program (a document that this journal had access to), Jose I, Jose II and Jose III promised to “tell all the truth of what they saw, what they heard and what they did as police officers working for drug traffickers”.
The agreement with WITSEC warns them that if they lie to a court or in any public statement they may make (like this one to Proceso) they will lose the privileges they and their families have been granted, they will be charged with obstruction of justice and sentenced to several years in prison.
— Did you witness any meetings between Mexican government officials and “Don Neto” or Caro Quintero?, Jose I is asked.
“Yes. By Bartlett”.
— Where did you see him meet (with them)?
“In the Lope de Vega house”.
— With whom, exactly?
–“With Rafael, with Ernesto, Manuel Salcido, with Miguel Angel Felix, with former governor of Jalisco Enrique Alvarez del Castillo and with the Honduran Juan Manuel Matta Ballesteros. And with Max”.
— Did you see Bartlett meet with Matta Ballesteros? Are you sure?
“Yes, sir. In the Lope de Vega house. That meeting was in order to deliver a trailer completely loaded with dollars packed in egg cartons of that brand name…Bachoco”.
— The money was for Bartlett?
“It was going to be delivered to all of them, to Arevalo Gardoqui, to Bartlett Diaz, to Aldana, who was there, too, and to Jose Zorilla (Director of Federal Security). I am stating and afirming this because I personally took down two boxes they ordered me to take down. They told me: ‘Get up on the trailer and throw down two of the boxes’. I threw down two boxes, they opened them, and they were filled with hundred-dollar bills”.
— What was the money for?
“The money, as far as I know, because that is what I saw and heard from the conversations between themselves, was for Manuel Bartlett Diaz’s campaign for the candidacy for president of Mexico.”