June 17, 2014
For release: Immediately
Contact: Su Docekal
Congressman Adam Smith and Washington state activists demand justice for indigenous leader Nestora Salgado, imprisoned in Mexico
In a crowded courtroom at Seattle University’s School of Law, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, Washington, joined human rights advocates and attorneys in defense of naturalized U.S. citizen Nestora Salgado, who has been illegally imprisoned in Mexico, without trial, since August 2013.
Salgado had been elected to lead the community police force in her desperately poor hometown of Olinalá when she ran afoul of the authorities while exercising her duties under Guerrero state law. While attempting to rid the area of violent crime and corruption, she was falsely charged with kidnapping and sent to a federal prison six hundred miles from her home. After 10 months in prison, she has yet to see her lawyers. A dozen other Olinalá residents who came to her defense are also under arrest.
“I am outraged at the reports of deplorable conditions and treatment that violate Ms. Salgado’s basic human rights,” said Rep. Smith, who represents her congressional district. “Mexico has virtually made no effort to follow due process.”
Rep. Smith has urged Secretary of State John Kerry to press both the Mexican authorities to treat Ms. Salgado fairly and the U.S. Embassy to “use all means necessary to ensure her health and safety while she is detained. “Let the story be told,” he said, “shame the Mexican government into doing the right thing.”
Professor Thomas Antkowiak, director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Seattle University School of Law, which leads the international litigation of the case, reported that she is being held in a maximum-security prison, which denies her clean water and medical treatment. A Mexican congressional delegation, which traveled to the prison two weeks ago corroborated that she is enduring “psychological torture.” He added that in March, “a Mexican federal judge ruled that she was acting legally as an authorized leader of her indigenous community, and ordered her immediate release.” The Guerrero state court has refused to release her and is looking into adding more state charges to those she already faces.
“My mom is a person with strong morals and a huge heart,” said Grisel Rodriguez, Salgado’s daughter who spoke at the conference. “That is why she never forgot her hometown, or the situation that the family lived in back in Olinalá. When intense violence tore into the communities in Guerrero after 2000, she tried to help any way she could and that is how she got involved in the Community Police, or Communitaria. The Community Police is a legal organization that works under Guerrero state law 701 which allows indigenous communities to form autonomous police forces.”
“They are not gun-toting vigilantes,” explained Rodriquez, “they are community people who primarily do social service work, such as providing hurricane relief to people who were forgotten by the state government after the tropical storm last October. Now my mother is a political prisoner,” she said, holding back tears. “My family and I are pleading for your help to secure her release and to bring her back home.”
In answer to a question from the media, she explained that neither Washington State Senator Patty Murray nor Senator Maria Cantwell had taken any action despite her meeting with their staffs months ago.
Su Docekal, chair of the Freedom for Nestora Committee in Seattle traced the beginnings of the fight for Salgado’s freedom to December 10, 2013 when local activists organized an action in front of Seattle’s Mexican Consulate. “Word had spread,” reported Docekal, “and simultaneous protests were held in five other U.S. cities and in Mexico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Australia, France and Austria.
Docekal said that following Salgado’s imprisonment, dozens of other community police were also arrested, and twelve still remain in prison. “They include indigenous leaders Gonzalo Molina and Arturo Campos who led protests after Nestora’s arrest, and whose families our committee is also supporting. All of the detainees are from towns and villages which sit on huge reserves of gold and silver and that are resisting the encroachment of international mining companies, such as Goldcorp, Inc., based in Vancouver, BC, which are ravaging their land, water and way of life.”
Stephen Durham of the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR), which with the Partido Obrero Socialista is leading the fight to free Salgado in Mexico and coordinating international support work, asked whether international legal initiatives have been filed. Antkowiak responded that the Legal Clinic has filed petitions with The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Inter-American Commission Human Rights, which are both now closely monitoring the case.
Student Miriam Padilla also spoke for the Freedom for Nestora/Libertad para Nestora Committee. “Nestora’s story touches people from many backgrounds,” she said. “She and her family are working-class people. Jose, Nestora’s husband, is a carpenter and Nestora held jobs as a custodian, maid and restaurant worker. Her outspoken feminism and her advocacy for her indigenous community have won her wide support. Latino, African-American and Native American communities, labor unions and women’s organizations have all spoken out on her behalf.”
“Nestora Salgado reminds me of Rosa Parks,” said Padilla, “who was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance, but whose act of defiance began a movement.” She thanked those present for their support and noted that they represented a sample of the wide endorsements that Nestora’s fight has received. Among those present were: Herbie Martin, Washington State Labor Council AFL-CIO and A. Philip Randolph Institute; Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Jimmy Haun, Political Director, Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters; Patricia Coley, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 46; James Williams, Seattle Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee; Stephen Durham, Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR) and Campaign to Free Nestora Salgado, New York City; Alejandra Gonza, international human rights attorney; Steve Hoffman, Washington Federation of State Employees, Local 304; and Fred Hyde, Freedom Socialist Party (FSP). Padilla thanked the FSP for being “one of the first groups to initiate this campaign because of its longtime involvement in immigration and indigenous struggles.”
Ann Rogers, a Chippewa elder of Seattle Radical Women, observed: “Standing up for basic human rights protection of communal land and the equality of women should not land a person in a federal prison. There is something very wrong with a government that allows this to happen.”
A statement by El Centro de la Raza concluded that “We need to increase awareness of Nestora Salgado’s case and send a clear message that we stand in solidarity with the community of Olinalá, Guerrero. Their leaders are unjustly detained for seeking a dignified, humane existence safe from crime and violence.”
The Freedom for Nestora Committee (Freenestora.org) urged supporters to write letters to Washington Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urging them to intervene on Nestora’s behalf. They also announced that if Salgado is not free by August 21 — one year since her imprisonment, an International Day of Action is being planned by her supporters in a number of countries.
The Seattle Committee meets on the first and third Saturdays of each month, at noon, at 5018 Rainier Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98118. For more information or to make a donation visit www.FreeNestora.org, email FreeNestora.Seattle@gmail.com or call 206-953-5601.