Two months since Mexican political prisoner Nestora Salgado was freed after more than two and a half years in high-security jail, three of her colleagues from the community police force she organized in the violence-ridden state of Guerrero are still in prison on trumped up charges, the Mexican daily La Jornada reported Sunday.
Gonzalo Molino Gonzalez, Arturo Campos, and Samuel Ramirez, fellow members of Salgado’s regional community police force in Guerrero, were similarly jailed on charges of “fabricated crimes” and remain behind bars as their freed leader continues to fight for political prisoners in Mexico to be released.
“Our people were suffering kidnappings, extortion, rape of young girls, and I could not sit with my arms crossed,” Gonzales said in an interview with La Jornada of his decision to take up the struggle with the community police force organizing against rampant violence and the reign of drug cartels, fueled by widespread impunity.
“They can lock me up physically, but my freedom is inside of me,” he added. “My thinking, my ideas, and my heart are free.”
It’s not a rallying cry now, but a description of the grandmother and community police force leader who is back in Seattle after nearly 30 months in jail in Mexico.
Since her return Nestora Salgado has had moments of celebration, but the woman known as “La Comandante” is under no illusion that her fight is over.
“I need to go back because my people need me,” she said in Spanish, at an interview at her Renton home. “I know that community policing is necessary for the people, the organizing of the people. And if I can do it I’m going to do it, even I have to pay the highest cost.”
Two and a half years after she was thrown into a Mexican federal penal facility, arrested without a warrant and charged with kidnapping, indigenous community police leader Nestora Salgado was freed from Tepepan Women’s Social Rehabilitation Center in Mexico City mid-March.
A judge threw out the charges against Salgado on March 17 after stating they had no basis. While in custody, the activist originally from Olinala, Guerrero endured a stint in a maximum-security prison, solitary confinement, and the denial of medication and physical therapy she needed to fully heal from injuries she sustained in a car accident in 2002.
A day after her liberation order, Salgado participated in a news conference where she detailed the injustice and frustration surrounding her detainment. “I felt that I was buried alive in a drawer. I was out of touch for 20 months, in isolation for a crime that I did not commit. They didn’t even let me coexist with the other prisoners. I only saw them when I went to court. They treated me in the most brutal way that they could. It’s difficult to struggle against the government when they are out to get you, but it’s even worse that they did this when all I wanted was to defend my community,” stated Salgado.
La activista social y líder de la Policía Comunitaria de Olinalá, Guerrero, salió libre esta mañana después de que fuera encarcelada por secuestros que nunca se comprobaron. Distintos organismos internacionales, e incluso la ONU, habían señalado irregularidades durante su proceso. Esta tarde ofreció una conferencia de prensa donde exigió al Presidente Enrique Peña Nieto respeto a los pueblos y que no siga permitiendo la violación a la Constitución.
Congressman Adam Smith joins the many of us rejoicing at Nestora’s release.
“The family and friends of Nestora Salgado have been unrelenting in their pursuit of justice for Nestora. Today, after over two years of wrongful imprisonment, and a recent UN decision calling Nestora’s detention illegal and arbitrary, the false charges against Nestora have been dropped by Mexican authorities. Nestora has been released from prison and is now able to return home to the United States.
Nestora Salgado returned home on Tuesday after being released from prison in Mexico. She said she was happy but in pain, and also determined to fight for others yet to be freed.
“I have too much trouble to walk,” said Salgado, 44, who was released by Mexican authorities Friday after judges cleared her of kidnapping charges related to arrests made by a community police force she headed. Suffering from a neurological condition that went untreated in prison, and kept for much of that time in solitary confinement, she also said she had pain in her arms and her spine.
The homecoming for the Renton woman seemed joyous, nonetheless. Her husband, José Luis Avila, was the first to hug her as she came through the gate with one of her grown daughters, Grisel Rodriguez Salgado, tightly clutching her arms.
Nestora Salgado was immediately slapped with new charges after judges ordered her release, but lawyers are hopeful she will still soon walk free.
Jailed U.S.-Mexican activist Nestora Salgado remains in prison despite a court order demaning her release, some 30 months after being arrested. However, the weak footing of the new homicide and kidnapping charges leveled against her might mean she’s close to regaining her freedom, local media reported Wednesday.
Salgado, a Mexican-born U.S. citizen, was arrested in August 2013 on charges of kidnapping and engaging in organized crime after returning to her hometown of Olinala in the violence-ridden state of Guerrero to organize a community police force, and to take a stand against drug cartels and state complicity in violence.
According to the International Human Rights Clinic at Seattle University School of Law, Guerrero law and the Mexican Constitution guarantee the rights of indigenous communities to form their own security institutions. Salgado’s group was officially part of state law enforcement and had the express approval of Guerrero’s governor, the clinic states.
“Today’s her birthday,” said Salgado’s husband Sunday night from his apartment in Renton.
Jose Abila’s never given up hope that his wife will come home.
“I know what I have to do, you know. Every single day keep fighting for her to come home,” he said. “The only thing we need is for the U.S. government to do the final push for her to get released.”
Jailed Mexican activist Nestora Salgado has yet to see freedom two and a half years since she was arrested amid organizing a community police force in the violence-ridden state of Guerrero, but she was far from alone Sunday as family members and supporters gathered outside the prison to celebrate the community leader’s birthday and continue demanding her release.