History of Red Ribbon Week: Honoring DEA Agent Kiki Camarena

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DPS Sgt. Justin Baker shares murdered DEA Agent Kiki Camarena’s story and how Red Ribbon Week got its start.

“A lot of kids over the next week will be wearing red ribbons at school. They’ll be doing themes throughout the week that have the idea of saying no to drugs and when you talk about Red Ribbon Week, everyone associates it with the say no to drugs campaign. A lot of people don’t know there’s a history behind it. And that history goes back to 1985 with a DEA Agent named Kiki Camarena.

In 1985 he was working on exposing various drug rings and cartels in the Mexico area. Doing that kind of work is very dangerous and Kiki knew that. His mother begged and pleaded him not to that kind of work but Kiki said, ‘No this is for the greater good. I know this is a problem and I want to do my part to stop the drugs coming into the United States.’

He was very good at it and when you’re good at that kind of work, your life becomes in danger. That was no exception for Kiki. While doing his work in exposing some very major cartels he was kidnapped and through interrogation and torture through about a three day period, it resulted in the loss of Kiki’s life. Again he was tortured for several days before they finally murdered him.

That opened the eyes for the United States and the government and all that these drug cartels are much more dangerous than we had perceived. That really opened up the war on drugs and to avenge Kiki’s death.

For me, in my line of work, I want to commemorate Kiki and carry on his legacy. And to get out there and do that it’s important for me to teach young people the ripple effect of narcotics use. Whether it’s an e-cigarettes all the way to the harder drugs there’s a fall out. And it might be that we’re not thinking about the fact that this is associated with a much larger organization that will go to great lengths to hurt people just to get that substance here. Or the ripple effect that starts with the young people, they start lying to their peers, their parents, their teachers, just so they can get away with that one little thing that seems so innocent in their mind but there’s huge fall out.

It opens up doors that they wouldn’t have ever thought about opening; ‘Well I opened this door I can open the next one.’ What’s that next door going to be? We don’t know, they don’t know but they’re willing to take that risk. That’s what Kiki was out there trying to prevent. People taking risks that ultimately  hurts themselves and others.”

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