Red Ribbon Week starts here and now |

Red Ribbon Week starts here and now

by Leah Walters

Every year the small towns of Minden and Gardnerville are merged together through the youth in our communities and within the school systems, to celebrate Red Ribbon Week. Red is flourished throughout the town in ways of signs and ribbons to capture the awareness of the townspeople for a cause, dear to many. Students Taking on Prevention, is at the heart of the campaign, and each year gather to plan a week of events to bring the event to light.

Within the next week, Oct. 21-31 Red Ribbon Week will be celebrated throughout Douglas County. However, the S.T.O.P group recognizes that most of this outreach is managed within the school system and is rarely taken home or recognized fully in the town.

This year, at the end of the Douglas High School Homecoming football game, S.T.O.P student representatives will be handing out a Red Ribbon for each individual. We encourage you to tie these ribbons to the antennas of your cars, and proudly display them for the weeklong event.

In addition, Students Taking on Prevention is partnering with “Drug Use is Life Abuse”. During Red Ribbon Week, any students who wears a red wrist band to any of the following businesses, will receive one free item of the sponsor’s choosing; AM-PM Park Place Mini-Mart, Pizza Barn, Homegrown Grill, Taco Bell, Burger King, or the AM/PM Minden Mini-Mart.

But before you, as a resident, can recognize the very importance of this week long event, you must know the background:

Red Ribbon Week began after the kidnapping, torture and brutal murder of Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985. Agent Camarena had been working undercover in Guadalajara, Mexico for over four years. His efforts led to a tip that resulted in the discovery of a multimillion dollar narcotics manufacturing operation in Chihuahua, Mexico. The successful eradication of this and other drug production operations angered leaders of several drug cartels who sought revenge. As a result, they murdered key informants and then, on February 7, 1985, they kidnapped Agent Camarena and his pilot Capt. Alfredo Zavala-Avelar (taken separately on the same day).

The agents found local law enforcement uncooperative at best. DEA Administrator Jack Lawn and U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese sought greater support from Mexican officials including the Mexican Attorney General but to no avail. Orders from US Customs Commissioner William von Raab effectively closed the US/Mexico border for days putting pressure on the Mexican government to assist.

Soon, representatives of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police (MFJP) presented a tip to DEA Agents claiming that Agent Camarena had been mistakenly kidnapped by a man and his three sons. The MFJP informed the agents that a raid of the man’s ranch in Angostura would take place the following morning and invited them to come. However, the MFJP raided the ranch before DEA agents arrived. During the raid, they shot and killed five individuals. Not long after, a passerby discovered the bodies of both Agent Camarena and Captain Zavala-Avelar by the side of the road not far from the ranch.

The DEA’s investigation revealed that Agent Camarena had been tortured extensively before he was murdered. Audiotapes of the torture showed that medical doctors actually kept Agent Camarena alive in order to continue the interrogation. Evidence collected revealed that both Agent Camarena and Capt. Zavala-Avelar were initially buried in one location and then moved to the ranch where they were found.

The dramatic events that followed Agent Camarena’s disappearance were chronicled in national media here at home. They exposed the dark world of drug trafficking including how far drug traffickers would go to maintain power and control.

In agent Camarena’s home town, Calexico, Calif., the public outpouring of support turned in to an organized community response in which citizens wore red ribbons. They became a voice for prevention in order to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and illegal use of legal drugs in America. The following year the California State PTA adopted the Red Ribbon Week campaign. Then, in 1988, Red Ribbon Week was recognized nationally with President Ronald and First Lady Nancy Reagan serving as the first Honorary Chairs.

Today, it is a campaign most adhered to within all prevention organization throughout the United States.

Each prevention organization that holds Red Ribbon Week successfully contributes formal cognizance to the cause. We pledge to be substance free students, we pledge to make this an illegal substance free township for future students to walk through, and we pledge to make a difference so all events like “Kiki” Camarena’s can be avoided in the future.

And it all commences with Red Ribbon Week.

Leah Walters is a Douglas High School senior and a Students Taking on Prevention advisor