When DEA narcotics agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was kidnapped and interrogated in 1985 by the leaders of Mexico’s Guadalajara Cartel, it was like a party.
They allegedly held him in a house filled with spectators and depraved participants, including Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, then a foot soldier in the syndicate.
“You had a bunch of drug lords sitting around, freebasing cocaine and torturing this guy,” Tiller Russell, director of the new Amazon docuseries “The Last Narc,” told The Post. “They were blasted out of their minds, doing cannonballs on his chest, anally penetrating him with a broomstick, putting out cigarettes on his skin.”
Also in the mix: corrupt Mexican politicians and, according to sources in the series, CIA agent Felix Rodriguez — allegedly there to protect American interests in a tangled web of drugs, money and dirty politics. Rodriguez has denied any involvement and claims that the allegations against him are the result of a Cuban intelligence disinformation campaign.
The series alleges a corruption so deep that Mexico’s then-president, Miguel de la Madrid, received kilos of cocaine as gifts from traffickers. “Hector was stunned when he heard that,” Russell said of DEA special agent Hector Berrellez, who would later try to learn exactly what happened to Kiki. “But he talked to guys who hand-delivered the drugs.”
“The Last Narc” chronicles Berrellez’s investigation. His story also inspired the Netflix drama series “Narcos: Mexico.”
Kiki was reportedly nabbed near the American consulate in Guadalajara, at the behest of Rafael Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, partners in the cartel.
As Berrellez told The Post, cartel leaders and American operatives “wanted to find out what [Kiki] knew about collusion between the cartel and the CIA” — and what he might spill upon his upcoming reassignment to the United States.
Informants told Berrellez that Kiki was stripped to his jockey shorts, blindfolded and subjected to torture-filled interrogations that were captured on audiotape.
Those last two factors set off alarm bells for Berrellez, now 74. “Drug lords don’t blindfold; you know who they are, and you will not survive,” he said. Nor do they memorialize their interrogations: “That is CIA methodology.”
Although Quintero, Carrillo and others were arrested by Mexican authorities for their involvement by the time Berrellez began to investigate, he believed that it went deeper — perhaps to the CIA.
Kiki was asked questions he could not answer. “He knew they were bringing in tons of cocaine, but he did not know that the CIA was involved,” said Berrellez.
The more Kiki expressed ignorance, the worse the torture.
When he passed out, a cartel-connected physician injected his heart with reviving pharmaceuticals. Then the torture continued. Finally, after two days, his body gave out and a thug put Kiki out of his misery, cracking him across the skull with a steel rebar.
Kiki’s body was quietly buried — then all hell broke loose.
“For 30 days, American agents kicked down doors,” said Russell. “The cartel had his body dug up” — by a crew of guys, including El Chapo, who specialized in such work — “and left Kiki where he could be found.”
An investigation ensued but petered out until Berrellez signed on in 1989, spending four years and some $12 million — much of which went toward buying information from snitches. He interviewed more than 100 insiders, often moving them to the United States for protection. Nevertheless, 23 sources were murdered over the course of the investigation.
In the series, Berrellez claims his efforts were shut down by his DEA bosses after he pieced together details about the CIA’s cocaine and gun operation. He maintains that the CIA functioned hand-in-glove with the cartel, allegedly using drug money to finance covert military operations, much like the Iran-Contra affair of the same era. (CIA agent Rodriguez has denied being in Mexico at the time.)
“The Last Narc” alleges that some US political operatives viewed Kiki as collateral damage in a larger mission to protect America against foreign enemies.
“Kiki ended up a sacrificial lamb led to the slaughter,” said Russell. “He stumbled into something bigger than he was.”
In the end, Berrellez’s investigation led to no indictments. He was taken off the case, assigned to a desk job in DC and told not to reach out to any of his sources. The investigation remains open.
But, as Berrellez says in the documentary, a “supposedly very high-up CIA official” told him “all this stuff about the CIA bringing in drugs and the CIA being complicit in Kiki’s murder that you allege” — and to “keep quiet” about it. “Mum’s the word.”
Now retired from the DEA, Berrellez sounds disillusioned about his investigation for the DEA.
“I feel like we were all betrayed,” he told The Post, referring to himself and his informants. “I wasted my time and exposed myself to all that danger.”