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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
OCTOBER 22, 2004
For further information, contact:
DEA Public Affairs: 312-353-7875

Role Models and Positive Life Choices Equal Drug-Free Kids

OCT 22 -- The Chicago-DEA has teamed up with the Chicagoland School Kids to ‘Kick-Off’ the annual RED RIBBON Anti-Drug Celebration. As part of DEA’s weeklong, national drug awareness campaign, the DEA-Chicago RED RIBBON Team will be visiting area schools the week of October 25, 2004 to encourage school age children to make positive choices and stay drug-free!

red ribbon

Red Ribbon Week
October 25-31, 2004

red ribbon

What is Red Ribbon Week?

-a time for gratitude for all the lives that remain drug free

-a time to pledge to live a safe and drug-free life

-a time to remember those we have lost in the fight against drugs


photo-Rick Sanders, Special Agent in Charge, Chicago DEA“For DEA, the Red Ribbon symbolizes the ultimate sacrifice that Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camerena made for his Nation and for what he believed ... The Red Ribbon Week program pays tribute to Kiki and delivers a positive message to our children about the goal of a drug-free America … each child’s commitment to living a drug-free life by wearing a Red Ribbon shows their opposition to drugs and that everyone of us can make a difference in our nation’s struggle against drug trafficking and abuse.”

-Rick Sanders, Special Agent in Charge, Chicago DEA

Red Ribbon Week is an important tradition for the drug prevention community, and especially for the DEA. The event that has become a national symbol of drug prevention, began as a grassroots tribute to a fallen DEA hero, Special Agent Enrique Camarena. The National Red Ribbon Campaign was sparked by the murder of DEA Special Agent Camarena by drug traffickers. Within weeks of his death in March of 1985, Camarena’s Congressman, Duncan Hunter, and high school friend Henry Lozano, launched Camarena Clubs in Imperial Valley, California, Camarena’s home. Hundreds of club members pledged to lead drug-free lives to honor the sacrifices made by Camarena and others on behalf of all Americans. From these clubs emerged the Red Ribbon Week Campaign.


photo-Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena

Kiki, a 37 year old United States DEA agent and father of three sons had been investigating a multi-billion-dollar drug operation which implicated officers of the Mexican army, police, and government. As he left his office on Thursday February 7, 1985, to meet his wife for lunch, five men grabbed him a he was walking down the street and forced him into a car. Kiki’s body was found one month later in a shallow grave, 70 miles from Michoacan, Mexico. He had been tortured, beaten and brutally murdered. Kiki gave his life in the fight against drugs and always held the belief that one person could make a difference.

Enrique Camarena never asked to be a hero. All he ever wanted was a chance to make a difference, a chance to somehow help others. But growing up in a poor barrio in Mexico, Kiki must have wondered if he would get those chances.

When Kiki was nine years old, his family moved to the United States. Kiki worked with the rest of his family in the fields. As he picked peaches and plums, Kiki watched other kids head for school and he often wondered what it would be like to have a seat on the bus or a seat in a real classroom.

Kiki finally got the chance to go to school and he became a good student. I high school, he played on the football and basketball teams. He worked on the yearbook. He was even voted Best All-Around Senior.

When Kiki graduated from high school he made a big decision. He saw that some of his friends were headed for trouble, and Kiki could have followed them. Instead, he worked his way through college and earned a degree in criminal justice.

Kiki served in the Marine Corps. Then he became a fireman and finally a policeman. And when he saw that many of his friends got into trouble because of drugs, he joined the DEA. The DEA’s mission to keep drugs from coming into this country weighed into his decision to join.

Kiki knew something had to be done to stop drugs and to help the people he cared about. His mother knew that his work could be very dangerous and she even tried to talk him out of it. “No,” he told her, “even if I’m only one person, I can make a difference.” His mother was right. Kiki’s work was often dangerous and it was lonely, too. Old friends turned against him. But Kiki kept on with his fight against drugs.

He was such a good agent that he was sent to work undercover in Mexico. For weeks, Kiki lived among the drug lords. He gathered information and evidence. Just when his work was almost finished, the drug dealers found out who he really was. They kidnapped him. They tortured him. And they killed him. After a month, his body was discovered and returned home to his family.

Kiki gave his life in the fight against drugs. He gave his life trying to help others. To honor Kiki, his family and friends wore red ribbons. As his story spread across the country, others began to wear ribbons too. Now every year millions of Americans celebrate Red Ribbon Week (October 23-31) to remember Kiki and to take a stand – just as he did – against illegal drugs. Kiki set an example for all of us. He showed us how one person can change things. And he became a hero. All Kiki wanted to do was make a difference. We hope somewhere, somehow, he can see what a difference he’s still making today.


Today, the RED RIBBON Campaign is the most recognizable teaching tool in the nation reaching millions of American school kids with a powerful message about drug abuse. No other single drug prevention movement in history has impacted so many lives.

RED RIBBON Week is nationally recognized and celebrated, helping to preserve Special Agent Camarena’s memory and further the cause for which he gave his life. The Red Ribbon Campaign has also become a symbol of support for the DEA’s efforts to reduce demand for drugs through prevention and education programs.

By wearing a red ribbon during the last week in October, Americans demonstrate their ardent opposition to drugs. They pay homage not only to Special Agent Camarena, but also to all men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in support of our nation’s struggle against drug trafficking and abuse.

The DEA is proud to ‘Team-up’ with Chicagoland and Chicago’s KIDS to show that every child makes a difference!

photo-some Chicago Kids during Red Ribbon Week
red ribbon


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