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Man Convicted in DEA Agent Camarena's Torture Death


January 1993

Defendant Ruben Zuno Arce was convicted in U.S. Federal District Court in Los Angeles in the 1985 kidnapping and torture death of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena Salazar (Special Dispatch, "Man Is Convicted in Drug Agent's Torture Death," The New York Times, 12/22/92, A18).

Arce's conviction came as a relief to prosecutors who lost their case against Mexican physician Huberto Alvarez Machain, who was kidnapped from Mexico to the U.S. at the behest of the DEA. In a highly embarrassing outcome, Machain returned to Mexico a free man, following criticism of the government by the presiding U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie for the weakness of their case against Machain (Lou Cannon, "U.S. Judge Acquits Mexican In DEA Agent's '85 Killing: Physician Was Abducted, Placed on Trial," Washington Post, 12/15/92, A1).

Mexican officials had accused U.S. prosecutors of irresponsible and unethical conduct in connection with the Camarena investigation, at one point releasing the criminal histories of six Mexicans who were allegedly paid by the U.S. to testify against Arce and Machain (Tod Robberson, "Mexico Terms Los Angeles Drug Trial Tactics Immoral," Washington Post, 12/9/92, A25). After Machain's acquittal, the Mexican attorney general demanded the extradition of two U.S. DEA agents on charges of kidnapping Machain. The U.S. dismissed the demand.

The U.S. sponsored kidnapping outraged Mexican authorities and sparked international condemnation. U.S. authorities, in turn, accused Mexican officials "at virtually the highest level" of thwarting the investigation into Camarena's death (Los Angeles Times Service, "Mexico Officials Said to Thwart Murder Probe," Washington Post, 12/4/92, A18).

More than 22 people have been indicted in the U.S. in connection with Camarena Salazar's death, and 12 have already been convicted in Mexico.