DEA Kicks Off Red Ribbon Campaign 2016 (Learn More)

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) this week kicks off its annual Red Ribbon Campaign, the nation’s largest drug prevention effort.

The National Red Ribbon Campaign began after drug traffickers in Mexico tortured and brutally murdered Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in March 1985.

Officially, Red Ribbon Week will be celebrated nationally from October 23-31; however, communities and school districts nationwide hold events throughout the month.

The Red Ribbon Campaign is dedicated to helping to preserve Special Agent Camarena’s memory and further the cause for which he gave his life, the fight against the violence of drug crime and the misery of addiction.

By gathering together in special events and wearing a Red Ribbon during the last week in October, Americans from all walks of life demonstrate their opposition to drugs.
Red Ribbon Program

Red Ribbon week started as a local effort in Camarena’s hometown of Calexico, California when former Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Camarena’s high school friend, Henry Lozano, created Camarena Clubs to ensure fond memories of Kiki.

The National Family Partnership (NFP) created a national campaign of observance, an eight-day event proclaimed by the U.S. Congress and chaired by then President and Mrs. Reagan.

Approximately 80 million people participate in Red Ribbon events every year.

Kiki and the History of Red Ribbon Week

Enrique (Kiki) S. Camarena was born on July 26, 1947 in Mexicali, Mexico. He graduated from Calexico High School in Calexico, California in 1966, and in 1968 he joined the U.S. Marine Corps.

After serving in the Marine Corps for two years, he joined the Calexico Police Department as a Criminal Investigator in 1970. In May of 1973, Kiki started working as a Narcotics Investigator with the El Centro Police Department.

He stayed with the El Centro P.D. until June 28, 1974 when he joined the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). His first assignment as a Special Agent with DEA was in a familiar place – Calexico, California.

In 1977, after three years in Calexico, he was reassigned to the Fresno District Office in Northern California. Four years later, Kiki received transfer orders to Mexico, where he would work out of the Guadalajara Resident Office.

For four and one-half years in Mexico, Kiki remained on the trail of the country’s biggest marijuana and cocaine traffickers. And in early 1985, he was extremely close to unlocking a multi-billon dollar drug pipeline.

However, before he was able to expose the drug trafficking operations to the public, he was kidnapped on February 7, 1985. On that fateful day, while headed to a luncheon with his wife, Mika, Kiki was surrounded by five armed men who threw him into a car and sped away. That was the last time anyone but his kidnappers would see him alive.

Photo of Camarena on TIME coverIt is believed that Special Agent Camarena’s death actually occurred two days later, but his body was not discovered until March 5, 1985.

He was 37 years old and was survived by his wife, Mika and their three children, Enrique, Daniel and Erik. During his 11 years with DEA, Kiki received two Sustained Superior Performance Awards, a Special Achievement Award and, posthumously, the Administrator’s Award of Honor, the highest award granted by DEA.

Shortly after Kiki’s death, Congressman, Duncan Hunter, and high school friend Henry Lozano launched Camarena Clubs in Kiki’s hometown of Calexico, California. Hundreds of club members including Calexico High School teacher David Dhillon wore red ribbons and pledged to lead drug-free lives to honor the sacrifices made by Kiki Camarena and others on behalf of all Americans.

Red Ribbon Week eventually gained momentum throughout California and later the United States. In 1985, club members presented the “Camarena Club Proclamation” to then First Lady Nancy Reagan, bringing it national attention.

Later that summer, parent groups in California, Illinois, and Virginia began promoting the wearing of Red Ribbons nationwide during late October. The campaign was then formalized in 1988 with President and Mrs. Reagan serving as honorary chairpersons.

(Courtesy of Camarena Foundation and YouTube)

Today, the eight-day celebration is sponsored by the National Family Partnership (previously known as the Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth), and has become the annual catalyst to show intolerance for drugs in our schools, work places, and communities.

Each year, during the last week in October, more than 80 million young people and adults show their commitment to a healthy, drug-free life by wearing or displaying the Red Ribbon.

Resolution of the United States Congress

Red Ribbon ProgramThe U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced a resolution to mark the significance of Red Ribbon Week.

The Congressional proclamation, offered by U.S. Reps. Frank Guinta and Tim Ryan, reads as follows:

Supporting the goals and ideals of Red Ribbon Week during the period of October 23 through October 31, 2016.

Whereas the Red Ribbon Campaign was started to commemorate the service of Enrique ‘‘Kiki’’ Camarena;

Whereas, on February 7, 1985, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Camarena was leaving his Guadalajara office to meet his wife for lunch when five individuals forced him inside a car and sped off; he was subsequently tortured at length and then murdered by members of the local drug cartel;

Whereas the Red Ribbon Campaign has been nationally recognized since 1988 to preserve the memory of Special Agent Camarena and further the cause for which he gave his life;

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Whereas the Red Ribbon Campaign is the most longstanding drug prevention program, bringing drug awareness to millions of people in the United States each year;

Whereas State Governors and attorneys general, the National Family Partnership, parent teacher associations, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Young Marines, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and hundreds of other organizations throughout the United States annually celebrate Red Ribbon Week during the period of October 23 through October 31;

Whereas the objective of Red Ribbon Week is to promote the creation of drug-free communities through drug prevention efforts, education programs, parental involvement, and community-wide support;

Whereas reducing the demand for controlled substances would curtail lethal addictions and overdoses;

Whereas reducing the demand for controlled substances would reduce the violence associated with drug trafficking, including, but not limited to, murders and torture;

Whereas according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2015 an estimated 27.1 million Americans, or 10.1 percent of the population aged 12 and older, used illicit drugs;

Whereas drug abuse is one of the major challenges to securing a safe and healthy future for people and families in the United States;

Whereas drug abuse and alcohol abuse contribute to domestic violence and sexual assault and place children at risk; Whereas although public awareness of illicit drug use is increasing, emerging drug threats and growing epidemics demand attention, with particular focus on the nonmedical use of prescription drugs and synthetic drugs;

Whereas the majority of teenagers abusing prescription drugs get the drugs from family, friends, and the home medicine cabinet;

Whereas the Drug Enforcement Administration will host a National Take Back Day on October 22, 2016, for the public to safely dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs that can lead to accidental poisoning, overdose, and abuse;

Whereas synthetic drugs, including those popularly known as ‘‘K2’’ or ‘‘Spice’’, have acknowledged dangerous health effects and have become especially popular among teens and young adults;

Whereas in 2014, poison centers across the United States responded to approximately 4,247 calls related to synthetic drugs;

Whereas the 2016 National Drug Threat Survey revealed 45 percent of respondents reported heroin was the greatest threat in their areas, more than any other drug;

Whereas according to National Seizure System (NSS) data, heroin seizures in the United States increased 80 percent over five years, from 3,733 kilograms in 2011 to 6,722 kilograms in 2015;

Whereas the number of people reporting current heroin use nearly tripled between 2007 (161,000) and 2014 (435,000), according to the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH);

Whereas fentanyl and its analogues have been devastating communities and families at an unprecedented rate;

Whereas the National Forensic Laboratory Information System reported 13,002 fentanyl exhibits tested by forensic laboratories across the country in 2015, a 1,392 percent increase from the 934 fentanyl exhibits in 2013;

Whereas the presence of fentanyl has also posed a hazard to police officers and agents;

Whereas the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health data revealed 76 percent of adolescents who admitted to treatment for substance abuse were admitted for marijuana use;

and Whereas parents, young people, schools, businesses, law enforcement agencies, religious institutions and faith-based organizations, service organizations, senior citizens, medical and military personnel, sports teams, and individuals throughout the United States will demonstrate their commitment to healthy, productive, and drug-free lifestyles by wearing and displaying red ribbons during this weeklong celebration:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives— (1) supports the goals and ideals of Red Ribbon Week; (2) encourages children, teens, and other individuals to choose to live drug-free lives; and (3) encourages the people of the United States to promote the creation of drug-free communities and to participate in drug prevention activities to show support for healthy, productive, and drug-free lifestyles.

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For a toolkit with Red Ribbon materials and more information, please visit: