New Drug Enforcement Administration chief Robert C. Bonner vowed yesterday to continue the investigation into the 1985 torture-murder of agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena in Mexico for "as long as it takes" to achieve justice.
Making his first public comments since taking over DEA, Bonner emphasized that the long-running case will remain a top priority for the agency despite the problems it has caused in U.S.-Mexican relations. Bonner also struck a cautious note about recent reports of dwindling cocaine supplies and other progress on the drug front, saying he did not think the country had reached the "turning point" in the drug war.
"My own sense is we have a long way to go in getting the drug problem turned around," Bonner said in a meeting with reporters at DEA headquarters. "We all see a few positive signals, certainly. . . . I guess I'm hopeful that in the next year or two, we will turn it around" in the sense that violence associated with the drug trade will start to diminish.
Bonner, a former federal judge and U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, was sworn in as DEA administrator earlier this month, replacing John C. Lawn, who resigned last spring to become an executive with the New York Yankees. While in Los Angeles, Bonner had overseen the early days of the Camarena investigation and the first prosecutions in the case.
Bonner said he plans in the next few weeks to meet with agents in charge of Operation Leyenda -- code name for the Camarena probe -- to see where the case goes from here. That could lead to further DEA pursuit of former top-ranking law enforcement officials in Mexico implicated in the matter. But Bonner said that if the Mexican government shows its willingness to pursue prosecutions, that might be acceptable.
"I have never said that it has to be exclusively prosecuted in the United States," he said. "It's important that justice be done either in Mexico or the United States."
Bonner also promised to maintain an open-door policy during his tenure. "My own policy is to be as open as I possibly can and to be totally candid at all times," he said.