dorset chiapas solidarity

March 22, 2016

Nestora Salgado, community leader battling Mexican cartels, freed from jail

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:28 am



Nestora Salgado, community leader battling Mexican cartels, freed from jail

Kidnapping charges against Salgado, who led a community police force cracking down on criminals in the violent Mexican state of Guerrero, have been dropped



Nestora Salgado: ‘People ask if I’m scared. I say, Yes I am, but want to die fighting.’ Photograph: Henry Romero/Reuters


David Agren in Mexico City

A Seattle woman who led a militia cracking down on criminal activity in her Mexican hometown walked out of prison on Friday, after kidnapping charges against her were dismissed.

Surrounded by shouting supporters and flanked by members of the militia she commanded prior to imprisonment, Nestora Salgado walked free in Mexico City with a promise to return to patrolling her birthplace in southern Guerrero state, where she won fame for taking on criminal groups and drug cartels accused of acting in cahoots with police and politicians.

“I paid for crimes that I did not commit and for nothing more than defending my people,” Salgado, 44, told a packed press conference. “People ask if I’m scared. I say, ‘Yes I am, but want to die fighting.’”

Salgado’s case won worldwide attention, as residents in several violent Mexican states grabbed guns and fought back against marauding drug cartels which in addition to moving illegal merchandise through Mexico to the US are increasingly involved in crimes against ordinary people, such as kidnapping and extortion.

The militia groups – commonly called “community police” – have caused disquiet among the Mexican government, but Salgado said such groups in Guerrero “have a structure, internal rules and are made up of community members … [They’re] necessary because people have to be able to defend themselves.”

Once a teen mother, Salgado moved to the Seattle area at around the age of 20, working menial jobs to send money home. She became a US citizen before returning to her hometown, Olinalá, a mountainous village about 275km south of Mexico City. There in 2012, after a cabbie was murdered for not making extortion payments, she jumped into community policing.

Critics have accused Salgado of abusing her authority, a charge she denies. She was detained by soldiers in August 2013 after, authorities allege, she kidnapped three teenage girls. The girls were detained by community police for allegedly dealing drugs on behalf of “narco” boyfriends.

The United Nations working group on arbitrary detention determined the arrest of Salgado to be arbitrary and said the formation of community police forces was permitted under state law.

Community police forces were first organised in Guerrero 20 years ago, to combat crimes such as sexual assaults and robbery, and to promote the practice of restorative justice common in indigenous communities.

Proponents say the model produced results, though the groups have splintered and some have not always acted properly.

“This government persecution is coming because it wants to discourage people from organizing,” said Father Mario Campos, a Catholic priest responsible for forming the first community police organization, the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities, to which Salgado belonged.

“Where there’s community security, there’s much more tranquillity.”

Security in Guerrero, which includes the glitz of Acapulco and the misery of marginalized indigenous municipalities in inaccessible mountainous areas, has worsened since Salgado’s arrest. Notorious crimes have included the kidnapping and presumed killing of 43 teacher trainees in September 2014.

The situation was serious enough for state’s most senior clergyman, Archbishop Carlos Garfias Merlos of Acapulco, to call for talks with organized crime. He pleaded with the cartels to establish a truce for the upcoming Holy Week holiday, when many Mexicans holiday in Acapulco.

Governor Héctor Astudillo even mused recently about organizing a legal opium poppy harvest, in an effort to weaken the grip criminals hold over impoverished indigenous villages.




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