Arturo Durazo Moreno: The story of 'El Negro's' secret, corrupt life
AN EX-COP IN PRESCOTT DIGS INTO THE CORRUPT LIFE OF "EL NEGRO" WITH FBI RECORDS AND UNCOVERS A SECRET PLOT TO KILL MEXICO'S PRESIDENT.
by Dennis Wagner
Mexico City’s police chief was not an imposing man: short and pudgy, with thick jowls.
But as Mike Rothmiller sat across from Arturo Durazo Moreno 35 years ago, the air of authority was unmistakable.
Durazo, known as “El Negro,” was a lifelong friend to President Jose Ernesto López Portillo, and one of the most powerful men in Mexico.
Rothmiller was a lowly Los Angeles police detective who had traveled south with his partner Kenny Hamilton to work out an intelligence-sharing deal in preparation for the upcoming Los Angeles Olympics.
An LAPD informer close to Durazo — a former Colombian police officer who immigrated to the United States — had set up the entente. And a police cavalcade had brought the detectives totheir meeting with the chief.
Then, immediately after the introductions, Durazo leveled an accusation: The American guests were CIA agents posing as cops. Through a translator, Durazo brushed off their denials and began talking about arms shipments and drug smuggling.
“You know what I do for the CIA and the Contras?” he asked.
That comment, which made no sense at the time, echoes in Rothmiller’s memory. Only years later, would Americans learn about a secret U.S. campaign, then underway, to arm insurgents fighting Nicaragua’s leftist government.
In that moment, however, it seemed that Mexico’s top cop was trying to sidetrack their negotiations.
Rothmiller and Hamilton tried to steer the conversation to counter-terrorism. There were reports that a Colombian organization known as the 19th of April Movement might be plottingan attack on the Olympic games. The detectives wanted help from Mexico to prevent an attack.
Again, El Negro played tough. He said he might be willing to share information — but only if the detectives would get him access to a U.S. database of stolen vehicles.
A DIRTY PAST
Rothmiller balked. Before heading south, he’d run a background check and learned that Mexico City’s police chief was dirty. Durazo had been indicted by a Florida grand jury seven years earlier for cocaine trafficking. And, to Rothmiller’s bewilderment, those charges were somehow erased from the U.S. justice system.
Knowing the value of stolen-vehicle data to Mexican crime syndicates, Rothmiller told El Negro that a detective could never make such a deal — then held his breath.
Durazo eventually abandoned his demand. He agreed to share information on terrorist groups. And he gave the two LA cops badges with credentials identifying them as majors on the Mexico City police force.
On the flight back to LA, Rothmiller's head swirled with questions: What was all the CIA talk? How did someone make a federal drug indictment disappear? And who was this guy?
Now a silver-haired author living in Prescott, Rothmiller never saw Durazo again.
But he kept watching, and kept wondering.
El Negro would become the most notorious lawman in Mexican history, a fugitive from his own government. And the target of a frantic, worldwide manhunt by the FBI, trying to stop a presidential assassination.
That drama, previously hidden in classified U.S. government files, is partially revealed in Rothmiller's recently published book, "Secrets, Lies and Deception."
But here is the full story, never told before.
While each detail of Rothmiller's account could not be independently verified, all key facts were corroborated by FBI reports, news archives, books, interviews and other records. Some FBI documents cited in this story were obtained independently by Virginia Colwell, an architectural historian in Mexico City whose father, Jack Colwell, was among the FBI agents who captured Durazo.
THE INFORMER'S TALE
Rothmiller worked in LAPD's Organized Crime Intelligence Division.
After the Mexico trip, he continued planning Olympic security, aided by a pair of Durazo's police colonels, plus the Colombian snitch.
Over time, Rothmiller says, those sources assured him Durazo was, in fact, tied to the CIA, and they alluded to U.S. government involvement not just with Nicaraguan rebels, but with drug smugglers.
Although skeptical, Rothmiller developed an appreciation for his informer's savvy and his connections.
The informer had once served as a police officer in Bogota, and seemed to have tentacles everywhere. But he would only learn years later, while reading FBI files on El Negro, just how far they reached.
Those documents contain dozens of references to an informer known as "Source Two." The person's name is blacked out, but the identity unmistakable: the Colombian.
'SOURCE TWO': A FRONT MAN FOR UNDERCOVER STINGS
FBI reports say Source Two was so close to Durazo that he served as a personal aide when El Negro moved to Los Angeles, even registering the former chief's vehicles to his home address in Southern California.
The FBI records mention that Source Two, as a Bogota police officer, became a confidante to Colombia's most powerful politicians in the late 1960s. After the adult son of a politician was involved in a fatal shooting, FBI records say, Source Two agreed to take the blame. In return, the Colombian government helped him flee to the United States to avoid arrest.
The Arizona Republic recently tracked down Source Two at his modest California home. Clear-eyed, feisty and articulate, the balding 82-year-old sipped coffee at a kitchen table, confirming the FBI reports and asking not to be identified for security reasons.
He said he began working for Colombia's secret police as a teenager and advanced in rank, becoming close with President Guillermo Valencia Muñoz.
Source Two said he and the son of an important political figure went out with two women one evening. He fell asleep in the car, and was awakened by gunfire: For reasons that are unclear, his friend had shot one of the women.
To avert a national scandal, Source Two said, he agreed to become a scapegoat. "I was so stupid. Unfortunately, I'm a very loyal person," he explained. "I say, 'Well, I was drunk. I did it.'"
Source Two vanished to Miami, then New York, where he got a job at a customs house. During the early 1970s, he was approached there by a Colombian government official offering $250,000 for help with a cocaine-smuggling operation.
Source Two said he has always hated drugs and terrorists, so he went to federal prosecutors and agreed to be the front man for an undercover sting. When the case broke, he said, Colombian cartels posted the $250,000 bribery sum as a bounty on his head. The Justice Department gave Source Two U.S.citizenship and a new identity, placing his family under witness protection with names they still use today. The government also helped launch his new career as informer.
"I never worked for the money," Source Two said. "I am a professional law enforcement officer, and I'm doing nothing for money."
He worked primarily on salary as a contract operative for the FBI, with additional jobs for the Customs Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS, U.S. Marshals Service and local law enforcement. His civilian job, distributor for a body-armor company, served as cover while he traveled the world gathering intelligence and setting up criminals.
As suggested in FBI files, Source Two was mostly a shadow — running stings without being publicly exposed.
There were exceptions, however: Court records show he led a 1,500-pound cocaine seizure by the Mohave County Sheriff's Office in Arizona. And he put a major narcotics trafficker behind bars in Texas.
Source Two said he has never counted up the investigations or criminal convictions, but there were many brushes with death. "I've been in the middle of very, very, very bad people. Many times I got set up and everything," he said, pointing skyward. "And I got protection from the Lord."
In the late 1970s, Source Two said, FBI handlers asked him to target Durazo.
At the time, El Negro had not yet been convicted of orchestrating cocaine shipments from Colombia through Mexico to Miami, but was suspected. Source Two said he came up with a ruse, persuading an international police association to give El Negro an award for law enforcement in Washington, D.C. Source Two arranged to be Durazo's guide on tours of the FBI academy and U.S. Supreme Court.
"My expertise was infiltration," he explained. "I was assigned to infiltrate him. So I did … He once lit a cigarette with a $100 bill right in front of me."
Soon, Source Two was making trips to Mexico City, visiting his new friend, who not only gave him a badge as police major, but made him a general in Mexico's military — a title he flaunted during sting operations.
Source Two said he had no part in Durazo's Miami indictment, but isn't surprised the criminal charges simply vanished: "Like Noriega in Panama, he dealt with all the (U.S.) agencies because they needed his cooperation in Mexico."
Portions of Source Two's account are substantiated not just by FBI records, but by Albert Zapanta, now president and CEO of the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce. Zapanta, who has held numerous U.S. government positions, became acquainted with Source Two and Durazo during the 1970s in Mexico City, where the chief gave him credentials as a police major. (He also was offered, but refused, a gold- and silver-plated .45 automatic.)
Zapanta says he suspected Durazo was a CIA asset, adding, "I had to believe it had to do with arms and drugs."
He also wondered about Source Two, a "promoter of relationships" who seemed to work for U.S. intelligence. "He was a likable guy," Zapanta adds, "but would I trust him? No."
Rothmiller's impression of Source Two at the time: "U.S. agents, spies and cops buzzed around him like gringo bees. And there was no doubt he had access to the deepest secrets within the Mexican intelligence community."
In fact, Source Two became one of Rothmiller's most valuable assets, putting him onto major cases that involved cocaine shipments into California and weapons trafficking out of the country. Those investigations were underway on Aug. 10, 1982, when Rothmiller — driving near his home — was ambushed by a gunman on a motorcycle. Six shots from a machine pistol peppered hisunmarked police car. Rothmiller was not hit. But he crashed, injuring his back, and the gunman escaped.
Forced to take medical leave, Rothmiller applied for worker's compensation benefits. LAPD administrators denied them, alleging he had fabricated the shooting and injury. Misconduct charges were filed. After hearing evidence, a judge not only ruled in favor of Rothmiller, but ripped the police department, which was headed at the time by Chief Daryl Gates. Rothmiller received compensation for the injury and stress caused by an LAPD campaign of harassment and false charges.
Despite the outcome, Rothmiller's law enforcement future was over, and he resigned from the police department.
But there would be another chapter in his personal conflict with Chief Gates. And the strange story of El Negro would get more tangled.
'DURAZO WAS THE EL CHAPO OF HIS TIME'
Mexico elected a new president in 1982, Miguel De La Madrid Hurtado, who vowed to root out corruption.
Durazo lost his job.
Within months, one of his top aides published a bestselling book, "Lo Negro del Negro Durazo" (The Dark Side of Blacky Durazo), which in chilling detail revealed the former chief's role in murders, bribery, drug dealing and other crimes.
By early 1983, with rumors spreading through Mexican media that Durazo would face criminal charges, he went underground. He began jetting around the world, with a home base in California.
Rothmiller knew El Negro had a condo in Marina Del Rey's oceanfront towers, frequented a plush L.A. restaurant, and hung out with American judges and law officers.
Once again, the reality made no sense. "Durazo was the El Chapo of his time," Rothmiller recalls. "We knew he was under indictment. Why is he not getting arrested when he comes here?"
The questions remained unanswered for years, overshadowed for Rothmiller by career developments. After leaving the police force, he worked in television, eventually hosting a show on ESPN called "The Gamesman" where he wrestled alligators, soared with the Blue Angels and took on other challenges.
ROTHMILLER BECOMES A WRITER
He also began writing books.
The first, "LA's Secret Police," was published amid a furor over the 1992 Los Angeles riots spawned by the beating of motorist Rodney King. Rothmiller described the attempt on his life, suggesting a link with his investigation of drug cartels and arms shipments. He also mentioned his Colombian snitch. But the volume focused on a police spy campaign waged by Chief Gates against California political figures and Hollywood celebrities. Rothmiller's revelations helped force the closure of LAPD's Organized Crime Intelligence Division and, along with the riots, contributed to Gates' departure as chief.
Rothmiller wrote more than a dozen books — from a psychological portrait of Hitler to a historical analysis of Roman law to a humor tome about dogs.
He began paying attention to the Iran-Contra scandal, which included allegations that Reagan administration operatives coordinated with cocaine traffickers to finance military shipments to Nicaraguan insurgents. The Kerry Report of 1988, a U.S. Senate investigation, spelled out the Contra collaborations.
Rothmiller also followed investigations into the Mexico City torture and assassination of DEA Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena. Although the 1985 slaying initially was blamed on cartel leaders and corrupt Mexican officials, two former DEA officials in 2013 went public with claims that the CIA played a role.
Phil Jordan of Scottsdale, former head of the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center, and Hector Berrellez, a retired agent who oversaw the investigation into Camarena's death, contend a CIA operative named Felix Rodriguez was present during Camarena's torture, and the murder was carried out in part because the DEA agent had uncovered connections between cartels and Mexican airstrips used to ferry drugs and weapons for the Contra operation.
The CIA has denied involvement in Camarena's death. Via email, an agency spokeswoman declined to provide records or answer questions about figures in this story. However, the spokeswoman confirmed Rodriguez was a CIA operative.
(In a recent Mexican television news interview, Rodriguez said the assertion that he played a role in Camarena's demise was "the most ridiculous accusation I've heard in my life." He said he was not even in Mexico at the time, and would take a polygraph test to prove it.)
Against that backdrop, Rothmiller finally acted on his curiosity about El Negro, filing public-records requests with the FBI, State Department and other federal agencies. Inquiries were stonewalled or denied, he says. Then, inexplicably, the FBI mailed him a CD full of classified reports.
The documents read like a spy novel with a stunning twist. The plot, based in Los Angeles rather than Mexico, placed Mike Rothmiller as a minor character. It also revealed his former partner, Hamilton, in a shocking cameo.
El Negro's legend began in Cumpas, a Sonoran village about 100 miles south of the Arizona border, where Arturo Durazo Moreno grew up. López Portillo, the future Mexican president, was his neighbor and close friend.
Both entered government service. El Negro became a member of Mexico's right-wing Guardias Blancas (White Guards), a militia notorious for violently quashing reformists during the 1960s. When López Portillo ran for president in 1976, Durazo became his personal security chief.
That relationship proved troublesome for American authorities.
According to records obtained by Rothmiller, just before López Portillo was sworn in, then-U.S. Ambassador Joseph Jova met with the president-elect to warn about Durazo'sFlorida cocaine indictment. Jova told López Portillo that Durazo could face arrest in the U.S., and urged him not to give El Negro a prominent government job. López Portillo ignored that request, creating a potential diplomatic nightmare.
But, as Rothmiller puts it, something very odd happened: "The U.S. agencies then conspire to remove the warrant from the Look-Out system. They keep the indictment secret and allow this cocaine trafficker to travel freely in and out of the U.S. during the next six years ... He (Durazo) held meetings with senior U.S. officials and, during the term of his appointment, continued his cocaine trafficking, engaged in extortion, kickbacks and murder."
By all accounts, Durazo used Mexico City's federal police department as a personal crime syndicate.
His officialsalary was reportedly $1,000 per month, yet he amassed a fortune. There were mansions in Mexico and getaways in the U.S., Canada, Spain and elsewhere. One Mexican compound featured a horse-racing track, a man-made lake, a casino and a discotheque. Another, replicating Greece's Parthenon, is now a popular museum of corruption.
When López Portillo left office in December 1982, the new president, De La Madrid, fulfilled a reform promise by replacing the capital city's police chief.
El Negro already was a subject of Mexican movies, books and ballads. Now, a criminal probe was underway. But the target, tipped off by insiders, slipped away — with help from a Colombian pal in Los Angeles.
Source Two confirms FBI reports that describe how he helped Durazo import vehicles to California, cash checks, seek visas and set up business meetings as an aide and confidante. Source Two said he solidified trust by using his influence to get Durazo's wife, Silvia, through U.S. Customs with gold elephant statues and $300,000 cash.
'THREAT TO KILL MEXICAN PRESIDENT'
By late 1983, Durazo still had not been charged with a crime in Mexico, and there was no official U.S. effort to track him down.
But early the next year an urgent bulletin was sent from the Los Angeles FBI office to then-bureau Director William Webster:
"THREAT TO KILL MEXICAN PRESIDENT MIGUEL DE LA MADRID ... THIS COMMUNICATION IS CLASSIFIED IN ITS ENTIRETY. LEGAT (legal attache for the FBI), MEXICO CITY, HAS DISSEMINATED INFORMATION REGARDING THE ALLEGED THREAT BY DURAZO TO HAVE THE PRESIDENT OF MEXICO KILLED … MUCH CONCERN HAS BEEN GENERATED OVER THIS THREAT INASMUCH AS THE DEPUTY MEXICO FEDERAL ATTORNEY GENERAL HAS ADVISED THAT DURAZO MAY HAVE AS MUCH AS ONE BILLION DOLLARS AT HIS DISPOSAL."
According to the FBI, Durazo hoped that by eliminating Mexico’s new leader he could avoid prosecution.
The alert described how the chief of Mexico's Federal Security Directorate, José Antonio Zorrilla Peréz, had asked U.S. authorities if American agents could secretly capture Durazo in the U.S. — without a warrant or extradition — and haul him back to Mexico as a "forcible escorted deportation."
Zorrilla, who claimed his government allowed U.S. agents to take similar actions in Mexico, was informed such a plan would be kidnapping — unacceptable and illegal.
The Mexican official tried another tack, asking "WHAT WOULD BE THE RESULT IF SOMEONE WAS MERELY SENT TO KILL DURAZO?" The American legal attache answered that it would be "intolerable."
Finally, Zorrilla pointed out that Mexican authorities had previously cooperated with U.S. law enforcement by planting drugs on subjects in Mexico so they could be arrested. He asked if the FBI or Los Angeles police might employ a similar tactic on Durazo.
The attache once again refused, urging Mexican officials to secure a criminal warrant for Durazo that would meet U.S. legal requirements for extradition.
AMERICAN AGENTS LAUNCH A STING
The attache then suggested an alternate plan: American agents could launch a sting in hopes of drawing Durazo into a murder plot while inside the U.S. — a violation of the Neutrality Act.
How would such an operation be carried out?
The attache explained: "BY HAVING U.S. SPECIAL AGENTS OF THE FBI POSE AS MERCENARIES CONTRACTED BY DURAZO TO ACCOMPLISH THE ASSASSINATION OF THE (Mexican) PRESIDENT, THUS CATCHING DURAZO IN AN OVERT ACT …"
According to the FBI memo, Zorrilla became so excited at this proposal he volunteered to fly the U.S. attache on his private Lear jet, 'El Tigre,' to Washington, D.C., for approvals.
That same day, the FBI communique says, Mexico's deputy attorney general conferred with U.S. Ambassador John Gavin and asked for a meeting with U.S. Attorney General William French Smith to request an "urgent, direct investigation by the FBI to resolve this threat."
HELP FROM SOURCE TWO
Federal agents learned of the Mexican assassination plot from informers in California.
The first, identified in records only as “Source One,” was interviewed by FBI agents on Dec. 14, 1983. He claimed to be a close friend of the Durazo family and reported that a relative of El Negro told him, "They are going to kill the president" of Mexico.
Then came the February 1984 interview with Source Two, who told U.S. agents he'd known El Negro for years and helped him relocate to Los Angeles. According to Source Two, another of Durazo's relatives was soliciting assistance for a presidential murder.
"…HE (the relative) STATED, 'DE LA MADRID HAS CAUSED TOO MUCH PROBLEMS ... THAT SON OF A BITCH MUST DIE. CAN YOU HELP US WITH THE U.S. GOVERNMENT, SPECIFICALLY WITH THE CIA, TO GET A NECESSARY FORCE TOGETHER, OF 10 OR 20 MEN, EXPERT ASSASSINS, TO ENTER THE PRESIDENTIAL PALACE IN MEXICO AND KILL THE PRESIDENT?'"
A week later, Source Two had a follow-up conversation with the Durazo relative about who might finance the assassination, the FBI report says. Source Two said he was told El Negro would pay.
In official reports, some FBI agents questioned Source Two's trustworthiness. They wrote that, several years earlier, he failed a polygraph test and was "discontinued with prejudice" as an operative. They said he was suspected of posing as a federal officer and possessing stolen property, though U.S. prosecutors declined to file charges. They described him as a "wheeler and dealer" who consorted with "organized crime figures, thieves, con artists and present and past law enforcement officials of questionable integrity ... (He) will work for both sides as long as he gets what he wants ..."
Another FBI report suggested that Source Two was a mole — manipulating agents while gathering information to protect El Negro: "(Source Two) is known to have numerous contacts within LAPD," the memo added, "and he may use them to help Durazo."
Nevertheless, a key FBI memo concluded Source Two was "very reliable," and he might be the crucial go-between in an undercover operation.
During interviews with The Republic, Source Twodenied failing any polygraph test or possessing stolen property. He said he earned a reputation for integrity, but jealous agents concocted allegations because they resented his ability to go over their heads to top FBI administrators.
'SUBJECT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED ARMED AND DANGEROUS'
According to FBI records, Durazo lived a "playboy lifestyle," theoretically making him easy to locate.
He frequented the ritzy Westwood Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles. He bought a condo in nearby tower where the top floor cost $11 million, including helipad. His vehicles included a Rolls Royce, a Ferrari and a Mercedes Benz.
Although Durazo wasn't threatening in stature, looks can be deceiving. Most FBI teletypes ended with a warning: "SUBJECT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED ARMED AND DANGEROUS. ... DURAZO'S BODYGUARDS ALLEGEDLY CARRY UZZI (sic) SUBMACHINE GUNS AND DURAZO HIMSELF CARRIES A .45 CALIBER AUTOMATIC."
Perhaps more importantly, as a former police chief El Negro had vast resources. Agents believed he was getting intelligence from law enforcement figures in the U.S. and Mexico. Because of that, FBI bulletins were top secret — not even entered into a national crime computer.
DURAZO'S HUGE NETWORK
Durazo's crony network included prominent American politicians, judges, police chiefs and federal agents, as well as officials overseas.
Even amid the secrecy, federal communiques about El Negro zipped across the nation and around the world. Durazo was said to be in Spain, Cuba, Brazil, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Tahiti, France, Canada and Los Angeles. Dozens of FBI offices were investigating. Information was shared with the CIA, State Department and Secret Service.
In March 1984, assassination fears peaked as President De La Madrid scheduled a spring visit to Washington, D.C. The U.S. Secret Service was warned with a teletype that stressed, "THIS MATTER IS BEING GIVEN THE HIGHEST PRIORITY.
On March 6 of that year, the FBI Terrorism Section in Los Angeles asked bureau headquarters for permission to launch a sting.
The application said an undercover agent would be introduced to a Durazo relative in Canada to "discuss and plan recruitment of mercenaries" to carry out the assassination. "MAIN OBJECTIVE WILL BE TO MEET WITH THE PRINCIPLE SUBJECT, ARTURO DURAZO MORENO, AND OBTAIN DETAILS OF THE ASSASSINATION PLAN... ULTIMATE PLAN WILL BE TO IDENTIFY ALL INDIVIDUALS IN THE CONSPIRACY AND NEUTRALIZE THE PLAN."
The application included projected expenses for costly undercover clothing and meals at the "most exclusive restaurants and/or nightclubs." It also listed airfares to Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico City and Tahiti.
A decision from headquarters arrived March 23: “THE POSSIBLE RESULTS THAT COULD BE OBTAINED BY THIS UCO (undercover operation) WOULD NOT JUSTIFY THE RISKS AND EXPENSES … APPROVAL TO CONDUCT UCO IS NOT BEING GRANTED AT THIS TIME.”
MEXICAN AUTHORITIES INVOLVED
In early April 1984, U.S. officials became concerned with yet another threat — a stealth mission against Durazo by Mexican authorities. According to FBI records, the bureau discovered high-level federales were in California using intimidation tactics to locate and possibly kidnap or kill El Negro.
Among those suspected: federal security chief Zorrilla and Miguel Aldana Ibarra, then director of INTERPOL in Mexico. The U.S. legal attache in Mexico City confronted Zorrilla, warning that foreign agents would be arrested if they tried to take out Durazo on U.S. soil. Zorrilla denied running a covert operation and suggested that El Negro had concocted such a rumor so he could challenge extradition if arrested.
FBI AGENTS GET A TIP
By June 1984, the threat of a De la Madrid assassination was prompting executive-level communications. A teletype to FBI headquarters noted: "The President of Mexico, MIGUEL DE LA MADRID, has personally conveyed this sense of urgency to the President of the United States, RONALD REAGAN, Attorney General WILLIAM FRENCH SMITH, and FBI Director WILLIAM WEBSTER."
That month, Mexican courts finally charged Durazo with extortion, illegal arms possession and tax violations.
The search continued for weeks with dead-end leads. Then, in late June 1984, FBI agents got a tip: Durazo would be arriving by plane at the airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to meet family members.
A federal greeting party was dispatched. Shortly after the flight landed, news shot across the FBI teletype: "SAN JUAN DIVISION ARRESTED CAPTIONED SUBJECT, ARTURO DURAZO, ON 6-29-84 WITHOUT INCIDENT ... SUICIDAL TENDENCIES.”
'WELCOME TO PUERTO RICO'
The arrest was a media event. But Rothmiller saysinitial accounts left out a key detail: When Durazo's family flew to Puerto Rico to meet him, they were accompanied by Los Angeles police detective Kenny Hamilton, Rothmiller's ex-partner.
Hamilton, who eventually was disciplined and dismissed by LAPD for consorting with El Negro, declined to comment for this story. At the time, however, he told the Los Angeles Times: "Durazo's just a nice, very warm guy ... When I went to Puerto Rico, it was as a friend, not as a police officer."
FBI records don't explain how Durazo got set up. But Source Two offered this back story: After being assigned to lure Durazo into U.S. territory, Source Two learned that Silvia Durazo was planning a trip to meet her husband. Source Two says he joined Silvia — and Hamilton — on the flight from Los Angeles to Puerto Rico.
WHITE HOUSE MONITORING
Stakes were high, Source Two recalls: The FBI operation was being monitored by the White House.
Durazo was not in San Juan. Source Two said he was given money to hire a private plane to retrieve El Negro, but not told the destination. Instead, FBI handlers provided a bureau aircraft, unmarked, with an agent as pilot. As the flight began, Silvia announced they were going to Curacao, an island off the coast of Venezuela.
After landing, Source Two says, he and Silvia met Durazo at a hotel and urged him to return with them to Puerto Rico, then fly to Los Angeles and seek asylum. El Negro resisted, fearful of arrest, but finally relented.
When the plane came to a stop in San Juan, Durazo stepped onto the tarmac, oblivious to what awaited. An FBI agent stepped forward, shook the fugitive's hand and applied handcuffs, saying, "General Durazo, welcome to Puerto Rico."
TOO MANY SECRETS ABOUT POWERFUL PEOPLE
El Negro was flown to Los Angeles.
In court, a defense attorney told the judge Durazo would not survive extradition because he held too many secrets about powerful people. "You can't return this man to Mexico," the lawyer said. "He'll be executed somewhere along the line."
The prediction proved wrong. Durazo was convicted in Mexico and sentenced to 25 years. He was paroled after serving just seven, and died of natural causes in 2000.
But for Rothmiller, a riddle continued to nag — not just about El Negro or the CIA, but about why someone had tried to gun him down more than three decades ago.
It was not until 2013, when former DEA agents Berrellez and Jordan went public with allegations about a CIA role in Camarena's death, that Rothmiller filed a swarm of records requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
Sorting through the files, the former detective no longer wonders how Durazo's cocaine indictment vanished, or who protected him: "I'm convinced it was the CIA because of the Contra thing," he says. "The weapons running."
In his book Rothmiller contends El Negro was "an integral player in this top-secret operation."
"How many Americans died from a drug overdose or the related violence from Durazo's trafficking?" he asks. "How many lives could have been saved if the U.S. government elected to do their job and arrest Durazo while visiting the United States?"
Rothmiller admits there's no smoking-gun proof. But, at least for an ex-cop who worked intelligence, circumstantial evidence fits like pieces cut with a jig saw.
"If you had a puzzle of Abe Lincoln, and you had everything but his eyes, you'd say, 'Oh, that's Lincoln,'" he says. "It kind of completes the circle."