Two former high-ranking Mexican law enforcement officials and four other men were indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles in the 1985 murder of U.S. drug agent Enrique Camarena.
Named in the indictment were Manuel Ibarra Herrera, former director of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police--the equivalent of the FBI in the United States--and Miguel Aldana Ibarra, the former director of Interpol in Mexico. The indictment alleged the two participated in Camarena’s murder “to maintain and further the purposes of a Guadalajara narcotics cartel that was engaged in the trafficking of substantial quantities of marijuana and cocaine.”
Also indicted were Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros, a Honduran national currently serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Illinois for running a narcotics organization in Van Nuys; Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, reputedly a leading Mexican cocaine trafficker who is currently jailed in Mexico; Dr. Humberto Alvarez-Machain, a Mexican physician; and, Antonio Vasquez Ochoa, another reputed Mexican drug dealer.
All but Vasquez are charged with conspiracy to commit violent crimes in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to kidnap a federal agent, one count of committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering, and one count of kidnaping a federal agent.
Vasquez is charged with two counts of committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering for the murder of John Walker and Alberto Radelat, two men who were killed in Guadalajara a week before Camarena. American authorities said they believe the men were murdered because drug traffickers mistakenly believed they were U.S. drug agents.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of life in prison.
To date, 19 people have been indicted in the Camarena case, the most celebrated murder of any Drug Enforcement Administration agent in history.
Three men were convicted in the case in 1988 and are serving long prison terms. Three others are to stand trial in Los Angeles later this month, but that is likely to be delayed as a result of the new indictments.
About the same time Camarena disappeared, Alfredo Zavala Avelar, a pilot who assisted the DEA in Mexico, was also abducted. Their bodies were found on March 5, 1985, at a ranch in the Mexican state of Michoacan.
The federal judicial police, then headed by Ibarra, led the search for Camarena. U.S. officials accused the agency of responding slowly to their pleas for action.
Ibarra had sent Armando Pavon Reyes, his chief aide, to Guadalajara to lead the search, and Pavon told U.S. officials he had to clear all of his actions with his boss in Mexico City. Ibarra had been appointed agency director by Mexico’s former President Miguel de la Madrid.
Aldana, who headed the Mexican office of Interpol--the international police agency--had been picked for his position by Ibarra. The two men reportedly are cousins.
Until shortly before the kidnaping, Aldana had been the head of Operation Pacifico, the Mexican government’s campaign against drug trafficking that U.S. officials said was ineffectual, according to a 1988 book on the Camarena case called “Desperadoes” by author Elaine Shannon.
Camarena was present in 1984 when Mexican authorities raided a huge marijuana farm in the Mexican desert near Chihuahua. The raid, according to various sources, made drug kingpin Caro Quintero very angry and some believe it was the precipitating event that set the kidnap plot in motion.
U.S. officials estimated the raid cost Caro Quintero about $2.5 billion to $5 billion in lost street sales.
One of the men who tortured Camarena asked him what he knew about Aldana, according to tapes of the interrogation that were recovered by Mexican officials and later turned over to the DEA after initial resistance.
Mexican officials were infuriated last month when NBC aired the miniseries “Drug Wars: The Camarena Story,” in which some Mexican law enforcement officers were depicted as corrupt.
Aldana subsequently gave a radio interview in Mexico in which he claimed that Camarena was alive and residing in La Jolla.
Times staff writer Marjorie Miller in Mexico City contributed to this story.