Demonstrators demanded freedom for Nestora Salgado, an Indigenous Mexican leader, at a protest at the Mexican Consulate in Seattle on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day. Demonstrations were held around the United States and actions took place in Mexico on that day.
Since Aug. 21 of this year, Salgado has been imprisoned along with other activists from her hometown of Olinalá, Mexico, in the state of Guerrero. Salgado was arrested for her role as a leader of an Indigenous police force which defended people in Olinalá from violent attacks. She is one of 14 people arrested and jailed in the local self-defense effort.
Salgado is also a U.S citizen and a Seattle-area resident for more than 20 years. She has made numerous material aid trips to Olinalá. The Indigenous community police force which she leads was responding to threats in Olinalá from corrupt officials and drug runners. Under the Mexican Constitution and Guerrero state law, Indigenous communities have the right to form their own police forces.
During the time Salgado was involved in community policing, there was a 90 percent drop in the crime rate. In performing her duties as police coordinator of Olinalá, she was arrested for kidnapping in the arrest of the local sheriff. The sheriff was accused of tampering with evidence after a double assassination.
Salgado was transported from her home some 2,000 miles to a high-security prison called El Rincón. There were big protests in Olinalá against this action, but the town was quickly flooded with over 1,000 federal troops and state police, who are preventing further demonstrations from taking place.
Since Salgado’s arrest, four human rights defenders have been assassinated in the state of Guerrero. Forty community police members have been detained this year in Guerrero; twelve, including Salgado, remain in state custody. Salgado has been confined to her cell 24 hours a day and been denied her badly needed medications and exercise.
At the Seattle demonstration Salgado’s spouse, José Luis Ávila, and daughter, Grisela Rodríguez, spoke out strongly for her freedom. Her lawyer, Thomas Antkowiak, announced an appeal to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for urgent action on Salgado’s behalf.
The demonstration was called by Libertad para Nestora/Freedom for Nestora — Seattle Committee. Leading organizers were Salgado’s family and the Freedom Socialist Party, with many endorsers across the U.S.
Dec. 10 actions for Salgado were also held in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Australia.