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.
Human rights activist Nestora Salgado raised her family in Renton. She’s a U.S. citizen and a human rights activist.
But most people know her now as a political prisoner. She’s been held in a Mexican prison for more than two years, with limited outside contact.
Recently, Salgado was transferred to a lower security facility, and allowed more visitors and phone calls.
KUOW’s Liz Jones met up with Salgado’s husband for an update on her case.
In the first major international news coverage of Nestora Salgado, The Guardian offers a stirring look at Nestora’s steadfast dedication to ending the rule of cartels in Mexico.
Nestora Salgado is not a woman who caves in easily.
A child bride who soon became a single mother of three, Salgado was still a teenager when she left her hometown in the mountains of southern Mexico to rebuild her life in the US.
Two decades later, she returned home to lead an armed rebellion against drug traffickers and corrupt local authorities – only to be accused of kidnapping and imprisoned.
Salgado spent 21 months in a high-security jail until a hunger strike galvanized international support for her case and helped secure her transfer last month to the medical wing of a more relaxed facility.
Now, in her first interview with the international press, Salgado argued that she was guilty of nothing more than helping her community stand up to the narcosand their corrupt political allies, and called on the Mexican government to release her and drop all the charges.
In a recent article covering U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Boeing’s plant in Renton, WA – where Nestora Salgado lived for years – Seattle Globalist described the supporters of Nestora who showed up not only to protest the TPP trade deal, but also to raise awareness of the political prisoner’s troubles. The Globalist’s coverage follows:
…Also outside the Boeing plant were supporters of Nestora Salgado, the Renton woman who has been jailed in Mexico after running a community police force. Her husband, Jose Luis Avila, and her daughter, Grisel Rodriguez, were among the picketers vying for Kerry’s attention.
Avila said that he would like the Secretary of State to take a strong stance urging Mexico to free Salgado, who faces an uncertain wait for trial. Human rights groups and politicians in Washington and Mexico have already backed Salgado’s case.
“We have been knocking on his door for months,” Avila said. “Hopefully he can see that we’re here, and we’re not going away.”
For the full story, click here.
The members of the City Council in Renton, WA have formally moved to recognize Congressman Adam Smith’s efforts to Free Nestora, and have passed a Resolution recognizing the details of her arrest and imprisonment.
Read the full resolution here.