Human rights groups working to free Renton woman from Mexican prison

Nastora Salgado, of Renton, has been held in a Mexican prison since she was arrested in August.  - Photo courtesy Salvador Cisneros Silva
Nastora Salgado, of Renton, has been held in a Mexican prison since she was arrested in August.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Salvador Cisneros Silva

By Alejandro Dominguez

Two or three times a year, Nestora Salgado visited her home state of Guerrero, Mexico, to visit relatives still living there and bring clothes to poor children.

The Renton resident and naturalized American citizen was still attached to her small, indigenous town of Olinala.

The region has been a victim of a big wave of homicides, kidnappings and people being tortured. Last year, when she was at the state, her neighbor was found dead after suffering torture.

That was when she and the rest of the town had enough, said her youngest daughter, Grisel Rodriguez, 23.

Since then, Salgado joined the community police and became a leader of that organization. Rodriguez said the police was made of town people and was created under state law.

Still, Salgado made enemies, which is why she has been arrested under charges of kidnapping six people, according to Rodriguez.

“The crime file is completely fabricated. There’s no proof. This is all political,” Rodriguez said.

Salgado was arrested Aug. 21 alongside 13 more people, one week before she was scheduled to return to Washington state.

Rodriguez said her mother is being jailed because she wanted a town official to be put on trial. The official was arrested by robbing possessions of homicide victims and the government wanted to release him, but Salgado was adamant for him to be put on trial.

“My mother is a brave person and she speaks what she has in her mind when something is wrong,” Rodriguez said. “And that’s the problem, because the government did not like she brought light to the political corruption.”

To pressure the Mexican government, several organizations protested Tuesday in favor of Human Rights and for Salgado’s release at different Mexican consulates in the United States including Seattle, New York and San Francisco.

The protests are part of a strategy to bring pressure to the Mexican government to release her, said Thomas Antkowiak, law professor and director of International Human Rights Clinic at the Seattle University School of Law.

The clinic has worked pro bono in helping people who have been unlawfully imprisoned in countries such as Nicaragua, Mexico and more.

Antkowiak has been helping with Salgado’s lawyer in Mexico. Salgado is currently jailed in a prison the state of Nayarit where conditions are bad and she has had obstructed access to her lawyer, he said.

He said her best hope is to bring political pressure with international advocacy and bringing political leaders for her case. She also has an advantage in that she has American citizenship.

“If we generate enough pressure, we hope that she can be released,” Antkowiak said.

In response, Washington U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have made inquiries about Salgado’s health and situation, which prompted U.S. Embassy officials to make a special visit to Salgado in El Rincon, the Mexican federal prison.

The visit, in addition to increased public outcry and media attention, has resulted in prison authorities giving Salgado back the bottled water her family had bought, so she now has safe water to drink.

Salgado was also paid a visit by the prison warden and has been told that she will be seen by a doctor next week, according to a press release from the campaign to free her. However, her family says Salgado is still being held under inhumane conditions, and they believe that sexist hostility to her as a woman leader is why she is being singled out for some of the harshest treatment among the 14 indigenous leaders that have been arrested by the Mexican government.

Antkowiak has also filed a petition with UN asking for Mexican government to bring more information about Salgado’s arrest. The petition was filed on Nov. 25 and it is still pending.

“I think we can get her out of jail and back home to her family where she belongs,” he said.

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