Mexican governor calls for release of militia leader from Renton

Nestora Salgado addresses the community police force she lead in Olinalá, Mexico, prior to her arrest last year. (Still from Youtube)
Nestora Salgado addresses the community police force she lead in Olinalá, Mexico, prior to her arrest in 2013. (Still from Youtube)

Nestora Salgado, the Renton woman who returned to Mexico to head a community police force, should be a free woman, the interim Gov. Rogelio Ortega of Guerrero, Mexico, said this week.

The statement by Ortega could be a key step in freeing Salgado and getting federal kidnapping charges against her dropped, according to a story published this week by the Associated Press.

Salgado, a naturalized U.S. citizen, faces charges of kidnapping after her community police force arrested several people, including a city official accused of stealing a cow and the Los Angeles Times.

The previous governor of Guerrero, Angel Aguirre, had been critical of Salgado’s methods, according to the Los Angeles Times. However,Ortega was named as Guerrero’s interim governor after Aguirre left the governorship last year in the political fallout following the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, another city in Guerrero.

The charges against Salgado were filed by Mexican federal prosecutors, but the Associated Press reported that Ortega said that Guerrero’s government “does not attack social struggles or movements.”

Salgado, who has lived in the Seattle area for more than 20 years, took action after her hometown of Olinalá in Guerrero, Mexico, had been taken over by a drug cartel called Los Rojos. Community members claimed the cartel was backed by the town’s elected officials, according to her supporters.

Her supporters cite Guerrero state law, which allows indigenous communities to create self-governing safety institutions if the government fails to ensure their safety.

At first Salgado’s militia was welcomed by the community, but after she arrested a city official of Olinalá, the federal government charged Salgado with kidnapping and had her arrested, according to the Los Angeles Times. She has been in jail since 2013.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the existence of such community police forces is politically embarrassing to Pres. Enrique Pena Nieto.

Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA9), who represents Renton and who has been calling for her release, said in a statement that Ortega’s words were encouraging.

“This is a critical step forward, but we must continue to pressure Mexican officials to take action and bring resolution to this case,” he said. “I will continue to work closely with Nestora’s family and the Department of State to ensure she is released from prison.”

Smith spoke at a press conference last year on behalf of the family. Faculty from the Seattle University International Human Rights Clinic also is offering legal representation in the case.

Salgado’s husband, José Luis Avila, also was in Washington D.C. on Tuesday to protest a meeting between Pena Nieto and Pres. Barack Obama to discuss economic issues, according to The Huffington Post.

We have thousands of deaths and thousands of disappearances, and the U.S. government has become an accomplice to the Mexican government because the U.S. hardly says anything about the violence,” Salgado’s husband told The Huffington Post. “Things can’t go on like this. The United States can’t keep maintaining this silence.”