Nestora Salgado fasts for freedom, inspires defiance across Mexico

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“Nestora Salgado’s name has become a symbol of resistance for many women struggling … against patriarchal violence and for indigenous communities,” said R. Aída Hernández Castillo in the Mexican daily La Jornada in August.

But the state sees her only as a threat. Aug. 21 marked the two-year anniversary of her imprisonment on false charges, with no end in sight. She and her supporters are expanding the struggle to free her and other community police and political prisoners.

Salgado is a naturalized U.S. citizen and the elected commander of a legally sanctioned community police force in her Mexican home town of Olinalá, Guerrero. Her arrest on bogus charges of kidnapping came after the force was too effective in fighting local drug cartels and in hampering the corrupt local politicians who protect them.

Fasting 43 days to free political prisoners. In May, Salgado went on a 31-day hunger strike, winning transfers for herself and other jailed community police to prisons nearer their support networks. Now in Mexico City, she has been visited by prominent activists including Father Solalinde, a well-known agitator for human rights.

In August, Salgado began a 43-day fast of limited food only once a day, in solidarity with the parents of the 43 student teachers of Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, who were forcibly disappeared by government troops in September 2014. She is calling for the release of all of Mexico’s many political prisoners.

The corrupt legal system continues to deny Salgado due process. Even though a federal judge ruled her innocent in the spring of 2014 and the ruling was upheld on appeal this August, state charges drag on. In six hearings, a total of 53 supposed accusers have failed to even show up to testify. The clearly biased judge merely postpones the case to a later date.

Her defenders continue the pressure.

Second anniversary protests. Salgado’s supporters across the continent protested her continued imprisonment on Aug. 21. A demonstration was held in the capital of Guerrero, Chilpancingo, along with a solidarity action in Mexico City.

In the U.S., protests were held in Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Diego. In Chicago, a weeklong series of events were held by several organizations, with Nestora’s daughter, Grisel Rodriguez, speaking. She and other supporters won a meeting with the staff of the Mexican consulate. She spoke with a local congresswoman, and gave several radio interviews. As Rodriguez says, it is social pressure, organizing, and building a movement that are effective.

This kind of action succeeded in freeing two indigenous political prisoners in August.

Fernando Jiménez Gutiérrez is a Yaqui leader organizing opposition to the Independence Aqueduct in Sonora. Marco Antonio Suástegui Muñoz is a spokesman for the council fighting against La Parota Dam in Guerrero. They were released by state government officials after sustained protests and the threat of direct action by their supporters. Suástegui immediately called for the release of other political prisoners such as Commandanta Nestora Salgado and Maria de la Cruz Dorantes Zamora.

Arturo Campos and Bernardino Garcia, two community police leaders, are being held along with six other community police in Ayutla de los Libres. Starting on Sept. 4, Campos’ family and 500 supporters surrounded and barricaded the jail, demanding their release.

On Sept. 12, teachers of the State Coordinating Committee of Education Workers in Guerrero led a march of 5,000 in Chilpancingo. They demanded repeal of repressive education and labor reform laws, return of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students, an amnesty law for political prisoners, and release of Nestora Salgado, Gonzalo Molina, Arturo Campos, Bernardino García Francisco and others.

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Also see: Prison neglect jeopardizes life of Mumia Abu-Jamal

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