Joe Biden and Drug Control: A More Complete Picture (Part 3—the Late ’80s)

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Sarah Brady Siff, a visiting assistant professor at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University, in affiliation with the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC). She continues the series on Joe Biden’s drug policy she started last month.

Now that Joe Biden has been duly elected president, I want to continue exploring his drug control activities where I left off last month. Although it takes me further and further from my chronological comfort zone as a historian, I have really appreciated the opportunity that writing for Points has presented me to learn some basic stuff about the “decade of greed.” To that end, I watched The Last Narc, an Amazon series about the kidnapping, torture, and murder of Mexican-American DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in February 1985. I know very little about this incident, but I had seen so many references to it in primary and secondary sources that I figured it had to be a defining event in the history of the drug wars. 

The new documentary went something like this (spoiler alert … ?). Part 1: The traffickers involved were selfish, brutal, and strung out; but Mexican officials at the highest level also were complicit in the wildly profitable and violent drug trade. Part 2: Cartel commanders definitely beat Camarena to death slowly while he begged for his life. Part 3: Wait, CIA agent Félix Rodríguez also beat and questioned Camarena, who probably knew too much about the U.S.-run Contra training camp in Central America secretly funded by Mexican cartels running South American cocaine into the United States. Part 4: An unidentified DEA agent also assisted in planning the abduction; looks like Camarena was betrayed by his own government. 

Read more