For the past two years, though, Salgado has been stuck behind bars, accused by the state of Guerrero of kidnapping.
Guerrero state attorney general Miguel Ángel Godínez Muñoz and other Mexican authorities maintain Salgado crossed the line when the community police force she led detained three cocaine-dealing teenagers and a town official who Salgado claims worked closely with the cartels. Groups such as Mexico SOS that advocate for kidnapping victims and their families have argued that Salgado should not be released without a trial.
But among those demanding her release are dozens of human rights advocates, recently elected Guerrero Gov. Rogelio Ortega Martinez, and 13 Mexican senators, along with her supporters and family in Washington state. Mexico’s federal courts dropped similar charges filed against her, according to her lawyers, but state prosecutors in Guerrero continue to pursue it.
Nestora Salgado is a mother of three who left her hometown of Olinala, Mexico as a teenager 20 years ago for a new life in the United States. She became an American citizen and worked three jobs to provide for her family. But after a car accident in 2002 nearly killed her, she quit working and moved back to her hometown just as drug cartel rivalries became more violent.
The cartels fought for territory around Olinala, subjecting residents to kidnappings, extortion, and murder. Outraged, Nestora became the leader of a community police force that took on the cartels by arresting murderers and drug dealers. She operated under legally recognized community policing rules that were enacted to protect indigenous populations after a massacre of peasants by state security forces in 1995.
Two years ago she was arrested by Mexican authorities.