After the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency led a successful raid on a multi-million dollar narcotics operation in Chihuahua, Mexico, Mexican drug cartels wanted revenge and started killing key informants with the DEA. The anger mounted in the kidnapping, torture and killing of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena and his pilot, Captain Alfredo Zavala-Avelar on Feb. 7, 1985.
The DEA launched a massive investigation into the kidnappings and offered an award of $50,000 for anyone with information regarding Camarena and Zavala-Avelar's disappearance.
Mexican officials were uncooperative in the investigation until the U.S. Customs Commissioner William von Raab, in conjunction with DEA Administrator Jack Lawn, put a grip on the Mexican government when they closed the U.S./Mexican border.
The Mexican Federal Judicial Police then gave the DEA a tip on the whereabouts of Camarena. They told the DEA that Camarena had been mistakenly kidnapped by a man and his three sons and was being held at a ranch in Angostura. The DEA told the Mexican officers they were going to raid the ranch the next morning and invited the Mexican officers to assist. However, the Mexican officers got to the ranch first and killed five people in the raid.
Later, Camarena and Zavala-Avelar's bodies were found on the side of a road. DEA investigators found that Camarena's body had been tortured excessively before he was murdered. There were audio tapes of the torture that revealed that medical doctors kept Camarena alive as his captors interrogated him.
When Camarena's body returned home to Calexico, Calif., there was an overwhelming amount of support from people who wanted to remember Camarena and what he sacrificed to keep drugs off the streets. The Calexico community dawned red ribbons, and soon, the California State PTA adopted the Red Ribbon Campaign.
In 1988, three years after the tragedy, President Ronald and First Lady Nancy Reagan nationally recognized Red Ribbon Week as a week to promote awareness and intervention of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and violence. (This information was obtained through www.camarenafoundation.org and www.redribboncoalition. com.)
National Red Ribbon Week is now in its 20th year of celebration.
According to Wanda Koelling, public health nurse/ Fulton County Health Unit administrator, this year, the health unit gave Fulton County schools banners to promote Red Ribbon week. Students were also given Red Ribbon bracelets to wear to remind them and others around them not to do drugs.
Salem students went to a school assembly hosted by the Future Career and Community Leaders of America club where they were given a presentation about the dangers of drugs and drug addiction. Students, faculty and staff performed skits, dances, sang songs and performed musical pieces. Rhonda Huddleston, the coordinator of FCCLA at Salem, said they had door prizes donated by area businesses given out every day.
Viola had a "Wear Red Day" and passed out Red Ribbon Week bags and bracelets Oct. 27. Those who wear their bracelets all week get a free soda and candy bar on Oct. 31. Seniors, Student Council, teachers and staff all got treated to a cookout Oct. 27 for Red Ribbon Week. Oct. 31, the school will have a "Teen Challenge" assembly and announce winners of a drug free poster designing contest. The Viola EAST Lab organized many of the events.
According to Michelle Walker at Izard County Consolidated, the CHASE (Cougars Helping All Students Excel) club has been helping out with Red Ribbon Week activities including putting Red Ribbons on car antennas. Walker also said Walter D. Smith, a motivational speaker, came to visit and talked about his own experiences with drugs. Both Calico Rock and Melbourne school districts also have activities planned for Red Ribbon Week.