OAS human rights body rules for Nestora Salgado
Solidarity rises even as Mexican government steps up repression
Megan Cornish
volume 36
issue 2
April 2015

Salgado’s new lawyer, Leonel Rivero, with her daughter Grisel Rodriguez at a Freedom for Nestora Committee meeting in Seattle Feb. 7. He traveled from Mexico. Photo: Jim Coley

Nestora Salgado, embattled comandanta of the community police of Olinalá, Guerrero, is at the heart of a whirlwind of struggle in Mexico. She was arrested in a roundup of leaders of the indigenous self-defense movement in the state of Guerrero in August 2013. A dozen of them are still in prison.

The fight to free them has become fused with a vast national movement combating the bloody tyranny of drug cartels and giant corporations, and the utter corruption of government at all levels.

This chemistry has created a political crisis not seen in Mexico since its 1910-20 revolution.(*) Support for this battle has spread north across the border.

A widening struggle. Since her arrest, the movement for Salgado’s freedom has built in Guerrero and the U.S., where her family lives and she is a naturalized citizen. This tenacious organizing focused international attention on Salgado’s plight, and in April 2014 a federal judge exonerated her and ordered her released. But the state government simply piled on new charges.

Then in September 2014, the forced disappearance and presumed murder of 43 students from a rural teachers college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, ignited prolonged protests across the nation. Mexicans were fed up.

Under unrelenting pressure, the state government spoke for a time of releasing Salgado by the end of 2014. But the political polarization only deepened. The movement on behalf of the 43 students shows no signs of going away, and the government is getting desperate.

This sustained and determined mass mobilization is drawing in other opponents of the government’s free trade and privatization policies. Imperiled, the politicians are afraid that concessions will encourage more protest.

So they reneged on the promise to release Salgado. As an excuse to keep her imprisoned, the state prosecutor used phony new accusations by a Señora Isabel Wallace, a wealthy woman associated with the right-wing PAN party.

Resistance and legal battles ramp up. Salgado’s defenders and the movement as a whole are pushing back.

In January, Mexico was ordered to guarantee Salgado’s “life and physical integrity” by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States. Rulings by the OAS are binding on member states: Mexico must provide proper medical treatment approved by her family, and report back to the commission.

The case was brought by the International Human Rights Clinic of the Seattle University School of Law, and confirmed claims by Salgado’s family of her deteriorating health and mistreatment. In March, seven United Nations human rights experts signed an urgent action appeal to Mexican authorities calling for her protection.

In January, the Comité Nestora Libre of Mexico garnered wide media coverage with a press conference in Mexico City. Central was the testimony of Francisco Flores, refuting the slanderous charges made by Señora Wallace.

The young man, who had been placed in the Olinalá community police-run House of Justice at his parents’ request, described the humane treatment and rehabilitation process there. He confirmed the deep respect Salgado has in her hometown. Flores was joined by coordinators of the Olinalá community police, an all-volunteer indigenous force whose leaders are elected by the community.

Meanwhile, an assembly of the Ayotzinapa teachers college issued a resolution calling for the release of Salgado and the other community police. And the National Network of Human Rights Defenders, made up of 97 organizations, issued a demand for Salgado’s freedom.

On Jan. 26, the four-month anniversary of the seizure of the 43 Ayotzinapa students, tens of thousands demonstrated in Mexico City, along with people in 40 cities across the country and internationally.

On Feb. 6, there was a standoff between 500 community police and the army, which wanted to force them to leave Petaquillas, on the outskirts of the capital of Guerrero. The military was forced to back down.

In the U.S., support by unions and social activists keeps growing. Revolutionary Black journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal made a Prison Radio commentary in her defense.

Fighting repression with solidarity. Repeated death threats have been made against Salgado’s family members, and supporters as far away as New York City. The day after the press conference, Francisco Flores’ parents home in Olinalá was visited by federal police and Francisco had to flee the area.

Activists on behalf of the Ayotzinapa 43 have been murdered outright. A leading member of the Revolutionary Popular Front (FDR), Gustavo Salgado Delgado, was tortured and assassinated in the state of Morelos. A retired teacher was beaten to death at a demonstration for the students in Acapulco, Guerrero. Yet many throughout the movement are uncowed.

U.S. supporters have taken up the call for justice for Ayotzinapa and are demanding an end to Plan Merida, which funnels millions of dollars in U.S. aid to the Mexican military. After all, the CIA created the extreme power of the cartels, as outlined in investigative journalist Anabel Hernández’ book Narcoland. Now the U.S. “war on drugs” is funding an armed assault on the people under the pretense of fighting the same cartels.

Events this spring include a caravan from Ayotzinapa to the U.S. scheduled for March and the Freedom for Nestora Committee’s work mobilizing support and raising money for ongoing legal battles.

Learn how you can help and make a donation at FreeNestora.org.

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*Updated May 14, 2015. The original posting of this story misstated the date of the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. It began in 1910.