Manuel Buendía was the most famous–and fearless–journalist in Mexico from the 1960s to the 1980s. Admired by colleagues and detested by politicians for his ability to ferret out stories that no one else perceived, Buendía was asked what he would say if he was ever killed for his journalism. “I had it coming,” he said.
And so he did.
Buendía was assassinated in May 1984 as he left his office in Mexico City. His life and death is the subject of Manuel Alcala’s stylish, perceptive and engrossing Netflix documentary. “Private Network: Who Killed Miguel Buendía?” (Private Network, Red Privada in Spanish, was the name of Buendía’s syndicated column.)
The answer to the title question, Alcala’s diverse and well-informed sources say, lies in the alliance of the Mexican drug traffickers, the Mexican equivalent of the FBI, the Dirección Federal de la Seguridad (DFS), and the CIA. Shortly before his death, Buendía had learned the same story that reached Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, an American DEA agent in Mexico, who was kidnapped, tortured and killed as a result.
The story was this: One of the biggest traffickers in Mexico owned a ranch in Vera Cruz that was used by his cartel, corrupt DFS agents, and CIA men to ship guns to counterrevolutionaries in Central America and return with loads of cocaine. The proceeds of the drug trafficking then paid for the Reagan administration’s contra war, for which Congress had banned funding.
This story was first investigated by a Senate subcommittee headed Sen. John Kerry in the late 1980s. The story was confirmed in 1998 by CIA Inspector General Fred Hitz, in a declassified report that few reporters bothered to read. Alcala’s film amply corroborates Kerry and Hitz’s findings from the perspective of Mexico’s leading investigative reporter.
Buendía’s murder is not related to the assassination of JFK, save that it illuminates the power of the CIA in the Mexican political hierarchy, which was forged by station chief Win Scott, the subject of my book, Our Man in Mexico, in the 1960s. My book is a kind of prequel to Alcala’s film. The official resolution to Buendía’s assassination, he shows, was actually a sham that concealed the hidden hand of the Agency.