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.”
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.
Hace dos años, la policía comunitaria de Olinalá, en el estado mexicano de Guerrero, detuvo a un hombre sospechoso de robar una vaca.
Nestora Salgado García era la jefa del grupo. Cuando la esposa del detenido le exigió que lo entregara a la fiscalía del estado, la mujer policía respondió:
“¿Para qué quiere que lo entregue? ¿Para que pague 20.000 pesos (unos US$1.200) y lo dejen libre?”.
Some German coverage of Nestora’s case from Amerika 21:
Gegen die seit zwei Jahren im Gefängnis sitzende Leiterin der Regionalen Koordination der kommunalen Bürgerwehr (CRAC-PC) der Gemeinde Olinalá im mexikanischen Bundestaat Guerrero, Nestora Salgado García, werden zwei weitere Strafprozesse wegen Totschlags und Freiheitsberaubung eröffnet. Dies hat ihr Anwalt, Leonel Rivero, vergangene Woche bekannt gemacht.
Damit gibt es nun insgesamt fünf Prozesse gegen Salgado, die seit Mai 2015 im Frauengefängnis “Tepepan” in Mexiko-Stadt einsitzt. Dort steht sie aufgrund der schweren Folgen eines 25-tägigen Hungerstreiks unter ärztlicher Beobachtung. In dem vorigen Gefängnis im Bundesstaat Nayarit bekam Salgado weder sauberes Trinkwasser noch medizinische Versorgung und erhielt Morddrohnungen von anderen Insassen.
U.S. Rep. Adam Smith on Friday released a statement calling for the release of Renton resident and naturalized U.S. citizen Nestora Salgado from the Mexican prison in which she is being held.
“For two years, Nestora has been denied due process and justice by the Mexican government. It is entirely unacceptable that she remains imprisoned in conditions that threaten her life,” Smith said in a press release.
On 3 September, Tita Radilla, Martha Obeso, Norma Mesino, Sofía Méndoza, and Julia Alonso, being social activists from different regions of Guerrero state, visited the political prisoner Nestora Salgado, coordinator of the Communal Police in Olinalá, Guerrero. The social activists explained that“we came to visit Nestora to encourage her and tell her that we are struggling for her liberty.” The five women mobilized themselves in Mexico City to express their solidarity with Nestora Salgado, who is currently incarcerated in the Xochimilco prison. At the end of their visit, they affirmed that “she continues to be strong.” A representative from the Free Nestora Committee that is operating in Mexico City also visited, announcing that a tour in Guerrero would soon be launched. This visit forms part of the struggle against impunity that is lived in Guerrero, the activists added. Nestora Salgado undertook a hunger strike on 26 August 2015, 11 months after the forcible disappearance of the 43 student-teachers from Ayotzinapa. She has been imprisoned for two years.
FSRN has released a stirring audio story detailing Nestora Salgado’s struggle and her recent decision to go on hunger strike. You can listen to the story and read their coverage of Nestora by clicking here.
Originally appeared in La Jornada, June 3, 2014. Translated for posting on this website.
Members from the PRD and PT reported that they will request precautionary measures on behalf of the sister and daughter of Nestora Salgado. Yesterday, while traveling to Mexico City to give a press conference, the bus they were traveling on was stopped by armed men who took a passenger who resembled both women, and shot her four times.
Rep. Roberto Lopez (PRD) confirmed that this is not an isolated incident because Nestora Salgado’s family has to make the trip from Olinalá, Guerrero to Mexico City and then take another bus to Tepic, Nayarit, in order to visit her in the maximum security prison in which she is located.
Legislators explained that the Interior Ministry should ensure the safety of Salgado’s family, and they indicated that they will demand her transfer to a prison in Mexico City, in order to ensure that it has appropriate measures for her imprisonment.
On her part, Rep. Loretta Ortiz Ahlf (PT) considered it “incredible” that nine months after her arrest, without a warrant , Nestora Salgado still does not have legal counsel, because authorities from the Northeast Women’s Center in Tepic, have not allowed contact with Emiliano Gomez Mont, who was hired by an NGO and a U.S. university.
”No one was present when the statement was made, a key moment in which the consul (U.S.) and the lawyers should have been,” she said, referring to the fact that Nestora Salgado has U.S. citizenship and yet the U.S government has not aided.
She said that during the visit, the former coordinator of the Community Police from Olinalá confided that she “does not believe in justice within the Mexican government and requests the U.S. governments exercise of diplomatic protection action, because judicial authorities here are not reliable and fears for her life.”
She also added that ”Salgado’s arrest was made without notice to the consul. Not only is consular assistance a right, but so is notification of when liberty is deprived. It doesn’t matter where it is, it needs to be done immediately.”
Translated by Nathaly Fernandez
By Cuauhtémoc Ruiz
The emergence of community police and self-defense groups (las autodefensas) in thirteen of Mexico’s states is a major political event nationally, but also internationally. It is not every day that a sector of the population arms itself. Even more remarkable is what is happening in Michoacán: over a period of months, thousands of armed people pursuing groups of criminals and releasing territories from the control of mafias and drug traffickers. This armed organization is a great feat of the Mexican people, who have shown that their organization and will are stronger than the capitalist state.
The national and state governments together have been powerless to fight the criminals and bring security. (Nationally, the parties heading these governments have been the Partido Acción Nacional, or PAN, of Felipe Calderón, followed by thePartido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI, of Enrique Peña Nieto; in Michoacán, the Partido de la Revolución Democrática, or PRD, followed by the PRI; and in Guerrero, the PRD.) However, the brave and organized masses have been able to accomplish this, while risking their lives every day.
Read more at socialism.com >>