A visit with Comandante Nestora Salgado after her hunger strike

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Nestora Salgado has been jailed on false charges and severely mistreated since August 2013. She led a hunger strike that forced concessions for her and fellow political prisoners. Cuauthémoc Ruíz, a member of the Comité Nestora Libre, Mexico, and the Partido Obrero Socialista, gives this account of his recent visit.

On Sunday, June 21, I visited Nestora Salgado in the medical tower at Tepepan Women’s Prison in Mexico City. She was healthy and full of life — happy in the wake of her struggle to be moved to a facility where treatment is better, given the tortuous regime she suffered at the high security prison in Nayarit. Nestora’s room is large with lots of natural light and a window with a view outside.

Nestora speaks freely and says that, just like Edith Piaf, she has no regrets. She is proud that she unified the townspeople of Olinalá against crime and injustice. She is glad she took on a network of child pornographers and liberated children and adolescents from human traffickers. She says it doesn’t bother her that she has had to face imprisonment as a result of fighting injustice. She says she remains convinced that she did nothing wrong and always has acted honorably in the interests of her people. She refers frequently to God in our conversation.

For me, it was like talking to someone I had known for a long time. Nestora is exceptional. She is a very smart woman with a strong character and a sweet personality. The serious Comandante Nestora is also a compassionate woman. She is proud and not diminished at all by the ugly pair of prison pajamas she is wearing.

We find ourselves joking and laughing. She says she is an avid reader and that it makes her happy that famous writers have visited her. Referring to her lack of formal education, she points out that Villa and Zapata both came from humble roots yet rose to become great leaders.

Our exchange comes to an abrupt halt because the prison administrators’ bureaucratic bungling has robbed us of a full hour of the two hours allowed for visits. Nestora’s sister, Cleotilde, visited briefly so that I could spend a little more time with Nestora.

I raise the issue of how to build the campaign to free all the political prisoners and Nestora is very interested. She asks about Dr. Mireles, imprisoned community self-defense leader who will begin a hunger strike on June 27. Suddenly, our conversation takes another turn: a political discussion around tactics. We understand each other immediately, just as I would with a Partido Obrero Socialista comrade. We share the same political language and Nestora, with a mischievous flourish, imparts useful tips.

We agree to organize something bold to defend all political prisoners and their families. She says she is fully committed. We are told that the visit must end. We embrace for a second time and I ask if she will allow me to kiss her on the cheek.

Also see: Hunger strike, U.S. delegation to Mexico bolster freedom campaign

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