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Supporters rally on first anniversary of Renton woman's imprisonment in Mexico

Grisel Rodriguez, daughter of Nestora Salgado, speaks at a rally in front of the Mexican Consulate on the one year anniversary of her mother
Grisel Rodriguez, daughter of Nestora Salgado, speaks at a rally in front of the Mexican Consulate on the one year anniversary of her mother's imprisonment in Mexico.
— image credit: Brian Beckley, Renton Reporter

On the first anniversary of her imprisonment in Mexico, family and supporters of Nestora Salgado held a rally in front of the Mexican Consulate in Seattle, calling for her release.

Salgado, a Renton resident and naturalized U.S. citizen, was elected to lead a community police force in her hometown of Olinala, Mexico, when local authorities in the poor, violent region known for crime and corruption charged her with kidnapping and sent her to a federal prison.

Salgado was elected leader of a legally sanctioned civilian police force that defended the community from drug cartels and corrupt public officials. In performing her duties, Salgado angered local officials who seized her on trumped-up charges. A Mexican federal judge struck down the charges against her and called for her release last March, but the state courts have ignored the federal mandate and she is still behind bars.

"A year ago a nightmare began for my family, a nightmare that hasn't ended," said Salgado's daughter Grisel Rodriguez, who has not seen her mother since she left for Mexico last summer.

Rodriguez said that after nearly a year, her mother this month was able to speak to a lawyer for the first time, following pressure from the United States government.

"This goes to show what public pressure can accomplish," Rodriguez said.

Rep. Adam Smith, King County Couniclman Larry Gossett and the Renton City Council have all taken up Salgado's cause.

Gossett, who attended Thursday's rally - one of several around the nation and the world calling for Salgado's release - called Salgado "our homegirl" because of her ties to the area and said the reason she was imprisoned is because she was successful in trying to make a difference in her hometown, despite efforts by local officials.

"They said 'this woman's got to go,'" Gossett said.

In a message from Salgado released on the one-year anniversary of her incarceration, she called prison "painful" and said it "weighs heavy on me." She said she missed her family and that she is often depressed and hopes to wake up in her home in Renton.

However, Salgado said she is still determined.

"I admit that I am in a fragile state, but this does not mean that I am weak or broken," she wrote. "I am not today and I will never be.

"What keeps me alive is that I know my imprisonment is unjust. What keeps me strong is the knowledge that the government holding me hostage is the same government that makes deals with organized crime; and that I am imprisoned by unscrupulous government officials who don't want the Mexican people to freely organize and defend their rights," she continued. "I will hold on as long as necessary."

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