Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, June 14, 2015

“Comandanta Nestora”: U.S. Citizen, Mexican Indigenous Leader, political prisoner

Lucio R. Borderland Beat Republished from The Guardian

“The government gives three choices to activists. You can be bought, you can be killed or you can be put in prison.”

Nestora Salgado is a mother of three who was thrown into a high-security prison on kidnapping charges after returning to Mexico from the US to take up the fight against Guerrero’s narcos – yet her indomitable character remains intact

Nestora Salgado is not a woman who caves in easily.

A child bride who soon became a single mother of three, Salgado was still a teenager when she left her hometown in the mountains of southern Mexico to rebuild her life in the US.

Two decades later, she returned home to lead an armed rebellion against drug traffickers and corrupt local authorities – only to be accused of kidnapping and imprisoned.

Salgado spent 21 months in a high-security jail until a hunger strike galvanized international support for her case and helped secure her transfer last month to the medical wing of a more relaxed facility.

Now, in her first interview with the international press, Salgado argued that she was guilty of nothing more than helping her community stand up to the narcos and their corrupt political allies, and called on the Mexican government to release her and drop all the charges.

“I have no regrets about what I did, and I never will have any regrets,” she told the Guardian. “I am not a person who likes to confront the authorities, but in a place where dialogue is not possible, what else can you do?”
Salgado’s extraordinary story has unfolded amid a fierce debate about the role of armed vigilante groups that have sprung up across the country to fight the cartels, but have themselves been accused of murder, extortion and – in some cases – even acting as proxies for rival crime groups.

Mexican officials argue that nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands. Salgado’s supporters say she is merely a community leader who has been criminized for exposing the Mexican state’s failure to enforce the rule of law.

Sitting on her prison hospital bed in white and blue flannel pyjamas, Salgado, 43, said she had never underestimated the risks involved in taking a stand.

“The government is against people who want to do the right thing and protect their communities,” she said. “I know I have made my family suffer, but it is a sacrifice that had to be made.”

Salgado’s indomitable character was forged in Olinalá, high in the mountains of Guerrero, a state in southern Mexico with a long history of repression and rebellion.

The town is best known for the intricately lacquered boxes produced by local craftsmen – and for the opium poppies grown in the surrounding hills.

The sixth of seven children, Salgado says her childhood was happy, if brief. She was married at 14, but within five years her husband emigrated to the US. The plan had been for him to send money to support the family, but it never arrived. Struggling to make ends meet, Salgado decided to entrust her daughters to her sisters and head north too.

She soon joined her husband in Washington state. In those days, it was still relatively easy for migrants to cross the border safely, so in 1992 Salgado sent for her children. Saira was five, Ruby was three and Grisel was one.

The family settled in the Seattle suburb of Renton, but according to Salgado, the reunion was not a happy one: her then-husband drank and beat her, and the couple separated. Soon after, she met her current husband, Jose Luis Villa, who is now a driving force of the cross-border campaign to secure her release.

Life in Seattle was tough, but good, (at left) she says. Salgado and Villa both worked two or three jobs, and sent money to her family in Olinalá whenever they could, but Salgado didn’t return home until 2000 when she obtained her US residency.

The visit was a reminder of the harsh reality of she had left behind, Salgado said. “It really hurt me to see my people still living in such poverty,” she said. “I had got used to the United States.”

Salgado took the family to live in Olinalá for a year, hoping it would make her daughters appreciate the opportunities they had in the US. She also became more outspoken against day-to-day corruption and lawlessness. “Living in the United State had opened my horizons and made me conscious of rights,” she said.

Guerrero has long been one of Mexico’s most lawless regions, but in 2006 the state was plunged into a open conflict by a military-led offensive against organized crime.

The campaign helped shatter the once-mighty Beltran Leyva cartel, but numerous splinter groups sprang up in its wake. One of these, Los Rojos, took control of Olinalá. Kidnapping, extortion, disappearances and murder became common; cartel gunmen walked the streets with impunity.

“At first you just try to keep a distance out of fear, but then it starts to move your heart,” Salgado said of the terror. “You get angry when the authorities do nothing.”

That fury erupted in October 2012 at the funeral of a taxi driver who had been kidnapped and killed by cartel thugs. A rumour broke out that a second driver had been abducted – and Salgado decided that enough was enough.

She helped organize the crowd as they disarmed the local police, then commandeered a police car to drive around town, using a megaphone to urge townspeople to join the rebellion. Within hours, the gunmen were driven from town, and an ad hoc militia armed with hunting rifles and AK-47s had set up checkpoints.

The ragtag force gained a figleaf of legality within an older tradition of community policing in Guerrero’s indigenous communities. But it also tapped into another strand of the region’s history – that of armed uprisings against the Mexican state.

Under the leadership of “Comandanta Nestora”, the Olinalá community police arrested suspected wrongdoers and detained them for “re-education”. Meanwhile the group also built ties with radical community groups allegedly linked to the region’s defunct guerrilla movement.
Protests against Salgado's imprisonment have been in Mexico and the United States
But many locals chafed at the Salgado’s high-handed manner and called for the military to take over security in the town. Anger focussed on the detention of three teenage girls accused of dealing cocaine for their narco boyfriends. Soon after, Salgado incurred the displeasure of local politicians when she detained a well-connected town official she accused of fraternizing with the narcos.

By then, even some of Salgado’s supporters suspected she had gone too far, quietly admitting that she had perhaps been politically naive in her attempt to cut through the web of local politics and organised crime.

“I knew that when I started to expose the municipal government that there was a risk I would be arrested or killed,” she said. “I didn’t care. It was necessary.”

Authorities put out an arrest warrant for kidnapping, and on 21 August 2013, Salgado was detained by the army.

She was sent to a high-security jail over 1,000km (620 miles) away from Olinalá – a move her lawyers describe as the first of many violations of due process in the government crackdown crackdown on vigilantes.

“The arrest and prosecution of Nestora was clearly a political decision,” said Salgado’s lawyer, Leonel River. “The case is full of violations.”

Salgado’s supporters also allege mistreatment within the jail. They say she has been isolated from other inmates, denied medical attention for spinal injuries sustained in a 2002 car accident, and that visits from her legal council and family have been severely restricted.

In January, calls by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for urgent action to improve her conditions did little to help. But suggestions from the Guerrero state government that it would consider dropping the kidnapping charges faded after a backlash from high-profile anti-crime campaigners associated with the political right.

The case, meanwhile, inched through Mexico’s labyrinthine judicial system, in which cases are still mostly fought in written arguments, often behind closed doors.

On 5 May, Salgado decided to stop eating in protest at her treatment. “I was prepared to die,” she said of the hunger strike that she maintained for 31 days.

The hunger strike focused new attention on her cause which has been taken up by supporters on Mexico and the US, and at the end of May, Salgado was transferred to the medical wing of a relatively relaxed women’s prison on the southern outskirts of Mexico City

At first, Salgado said she would continue to refuse food until she was freed, but was persuaded to end the hunger strike when doctors warned she risked permanent damage. Meanwhile, discrete negotiations with state authorities continue – though Salgado’s supporters are wary of raising their hopes too soon.

“We are facing a monster in Mexico and we know how dirty politics are,” said her husband, José Louis Villa. “The government gives three choices to activists. You can be bought, you can be killed or you can be put in prison.”

Meanwhile, La Comandata remains defiant. In an 30-minute interview, she only appeared to drop her guard for a brief moment as she described seeing herself in the mirror last month for the first time since her arrest.

“They try to destroy you in that place,” she said. Then she straightened her back and continued: “But I am strong.”

Nestora Salgado and Dr. Manuel Mireles,both incarcerated  political prisoners, both leading a secure life in
the U.S. when deciding to return to Mexico and fight for the rights of people
Cartel Jalisco New Generation murders Nestora’s father in law

Addendum (Lucio)

A month ago, on May 15th, Eladio Ávila Pérez was gunned down by CJNG assassins.  Ávila Pérez was the 67 year old father in law of Nestora Salgado.

The incident occurred in the municipality of Tomatlán, Jalisco when Avila was accosted and gunned down by hitmen while he driving his 1998 pickup.

There have been a series of threats made against Avila and his son, husband of Nestora,  Jose Luis Avila. 

The warnings specifically address the movement to free Nestora, that if it were to continue both men will be killed.


  1. Where does that article say she is a citizen of the US? Residency is not citizenship. And judging from her actions, right or not, she would be in jail in the US too. No matter how corrupt you consider the police, you are not at liberty to disarm them.

    1. can smell your stench of racism from here. ew

      Ok ...ever try google?

      I am guessing you never heard of Nestora? google Nestora Salgado US citizen. Not only is she a citizen as such Mexico did not grant her rights she should have when arrested.

      see this from seattle paper (she is from seattle)

      "Salgado, who is a U.S. citizen, was arrested without the Mexican government officially notifying the U.S. Embassy, her rights have been violated and she would have to be released."

      what you are confsed with, is her first trip back to mexico in 2000 after she was given her residence visa, she applied for her citizenship at that time which is the second step after visa. she became a citizen in early 2000. A group of congressmen and senators have appealed to Obama to intervene on behalf of the Naturalized American Citizen.

      She was already found not guilty and ordered released:

      In April a federal judge dismissed the charges against Salgado and ordered her immediately released, but the Guerrero state judicial system did not comply with the order and instead tacked on new charges against the community activist.

    2. You ought to see if you can get permission to reprint this article. It has more information in it that the other and casts two lights on this case, in my opinion.

    3. I think ignorance more than racism, but the reader could be both. Obviously the reader simply has not followed the story and maybe ESL? Because the visa portion is only pertaining to her waiting until she received her visa to go to Mexico for the first time.

      She has dual citizenship. Born in Mexico and naturalized American.

    4. On the contrary @1:19 PM. If people are corrupt you have the obligation to remove them. It is our most important responsibility.

      If no one stands up, we all fall down. - TT

    5. I want to thank you for making me aware of this article. It led to me look for more (like the one in the Latin Post) and to send an email to Senator Murray and others in government regarding the articles. According to the Guardian article she led a mob that disarmed a local police force, stole their car and drove around inciting revolution. I asked the politicians if they would have supported such action in a small town in the US, say Ferguson, MO? Of course, they would not and anyone who committed such an act in the US would be in prison, had they survived the organized retaliation to return authority to the local police.

      Among the people I know in Mexico and Brazil, the US has a bad reputation for hypocrisy and a double standard regarding policies inside and outside the country. This is an example of why. If you know anything about how citizens of Mexico are treated when incarcerated (and sometimes executed) in states like Texas, you will understand it better.

      After I contact someone I know in the State Dept who is assigned to Mexico, I might send this on to all the US Senators. The US should not be supporting vigilantes from the US who work outside the legal system.

    6. What legal system are you taking about? You seem to forget that she is a Mexican citizen and is obviously not been treated fairly by the supposed legal system if from either country. If you live in Mexico you know the system does not work correctly with a population of prisoners that are 70% innocent. It is written and well known by the people that live here. The poor ones that cannot pay their way out or are not connected stay in prison until people can come up with enough money. If you even work within the legal system in Mexico it seems to get nowhere. You been to march and picket and more and most of the time more people get hurt or jailed. It is my way or the highway. She was ordered to be let go. You know as well as anyone that they will trump up charges to keep one incarcerated. She really looks like a terrorist (sarcasm). She looks like someones sweet mother that wants to protect her children, not to get rich as if that would not happen. If it gets this bad in the USA there will be a revolution. It has happened before. But hopefully it never gets that bad there. Ask the millions of Mexicans on the US side if they think the government in Mexico and the legal system is not corrupt. You will get an answer where they can speak freely. Many of these small pueblos are run by the Narco's and the government does nothing. There find whole police forces that are involved with the cartels. What would you do? Would you pay the extortion, let them kill and rape your wife and kids, take your land and more. In some areas people do extraordinary things to preserve their way of life and the people around them. They should be hailed a leaders and important people. When they send her to a prison like this after killing no one you can understand what is happening here. She did not do it alone, she had the people that lived there that just needed someone to point them in the right direction.

    7. 9:43 you are juan pendejo, in mexico, the police are the corrupt lackeys of the corrupt government, who also own the drug trafficking and the drug traffickers, you are confusing the mexican police with the professional very well paid, militarized police of the most powerful country in the world, the US.
      --I don't understand how can there be so many idiots in the world like you 9:43, even your beloved congressmen, senators, and SPEAKERS OF THE HOUSE have been accused of sexual offenses, like dennis hastert, or Bill clinton, and you want to accuse comandante nestora?

    8. Do you have contacts in high places and you think of you "make the call" things will change ?
      You sound as if this is news to you as well.
      Please by all means make that call!

    9. WTF are you kidding you wanna compare Ferguson to the us you can call the cops or some form of law enforcement with some degree of confidence..ev3n LAPD.. in mexico the cops are the cartels every segment of the gov. Theres dirty pigs and politicians..remember that nothing is more american than revolution!! You would not stand by as your people are murdered and abused..and if you do i pitty the man you are.

    10. what is this about?

    11. --It is not about badmouthing comandanta nestora, but some sanababitch could not let the opportunity pass, like todo un madafacker 100%
      --Will Rogers said "Rome declined because it had a senate, now what is going to happen to the US with a house and a senate?"

    12. "No matter how corrupt you consider the police, you are not at liberty to disarm them." Never have I heard a more ludicrous statement of ignorance. You would make a good loyal slave to a dictator. I guess in your book that nothing is worth fighting and possibly dying for? Coward.

    13. I am going to sink your argument and watch it go down in flames: Google "The Battle of Athens, Tennessee, 1946" and you will learn that the accountability of good men is to fight corrupt officials through armed response.

  2. The government and cartels have one common true enemy: activists like Mrs Salgado and Dr Mireles.
    Why is that?
    First it is because their aim is to derail the gravy train which feed both the crime groups and the corrupt government officials, corrupt politicians, corrupt police and military officers.
    Second (and more seriously) these activist want to bring justice to the people. Their success would mean that all of the above (as well as their families and networks of 'associates') would be prosecuted and risk loosing everything they have.

    Organized crime and the government will do ANYTHING to stop these activists because they know that the Mexican masses can eliminate the cancer which they are if they unite.

    1. well said !!!

    2. The one thing that corrupt Mexican police and federal authorities hate and fear more than a cartel member is an armed citizen that fights back. The cartels own many police, federales, and politicians which is why honest armed citizens are the enemy of both the cartels and the government.

  3. Also, I believe her father was murdered recently.

  4. lucio good to see you back posting man.

    this is an outstanding article. Best I have seen on Nestora

    1. Yes, a coherent translation , not sure if ( the English guy ) proof reads his spanish translation software.

    2. The original article is in English. Check the link to The Guardian.

    3. Otis is good, too, too good for an englishman, and shows his interest in mexico by knowing his Spanish better than many mexicans, I hope he does not sell us out down the river...
      --And i hope you stop trying to pick a bitch slapping fight, tearing each other's wigs off their heads between lucilo and chotis, we all do what we can

  5. With all due respect to her husband and family, she is a beauty. Not only for her looks but her spirit is visible in the photos. The article decribes a strong latina with strong convictions. I would like to see her back in the U.S. where she could continue to seek justice for the Mexican Citizens.

  6. If she is a US citizen then the US should step in with stipulations. Like she cannot continue with her activist activities. What amazes me is that right up front she is told what amount of time she could be facing yet capos go wondering in prison without a trial ever. The country is so full of corruption it is a total waste of time to try to seek change. It seems no one is legitimate anymore. To speak of laws. What a joke. What laws? The ones that are made up as they go along?

    1. Vainglorious womanizer Ben Franklin was sent to france to stir the hornet's nest in favour of the american revolution and the revolutionaries, who all approved the french help, the US could do the same and help nestora against its mexican drug trafficking sicarios...

  7. Revolution and nothing less will save Mexico. Si los narcos tienen manera de mandar Armas a la basura que los sigue. Nosotros las gente trabajadora, decente tambien podemos. Hay que mandar Armas a Nuestros familiares en todo Mexico. ARRIBA LA GENTE VALIENTE DE NUSTRO LINDO MEXICO. LA UNION HACE LA FUERZA.

  8. Good on her but i feel that popularity could become a problem for her and other people

  9. Free La Commandanta Nestora! Viva Mexico! No Justice No Peace. Mexico needs a new government run by el pueblo, not narco thugs, international gangsters y lo mas hp de todos--el DEA.

    1. Wrong about DEA, honey, very wrong...
      --the CIA is the enemy, ever since they got made, ambassadors and all, and before they got made as OSS or united fruit co. And they have been trafficking drugs since Aristotle Onassis made his first dollar trafficking Turkish "tobaccos" and other delicacies plus oil and weapons in cahoots with other international warlords.
      --The CIA is even the enemy of the US and works against the american people...

  10. lets start the revolution i got what we need soy chicano pero por mi raza muero chinge su madre el gobierno

  11. Mexico is not a bad place, the government is the problem.....usually if you are a law obeying citizen in mexico you get fucked by the criminals and the government....there is no way to get justice because of the corruption....I'll give you an example of what happened to me in mexico, i had a small business and I had to pay cuota (extorsion) every month.... i called the police and the army several times, guess what nothing happened, except a phone call on the middle of the work day ,"stop being a snitch we know you called the army and the police " next time we burn you tienda (store) down. Anyways the point is that I ask my relatives and people on the town if we should stop paying cuota and just hire people and shoot, it out....guess what the mexican army came into the town and set up check points, in mexico we called them retenes and they started to take anything that could shot from the local population....guess what the cuota continued every month , and they always came with rifles and guns on plain I figured how's is it possible that we tried to organize as tienderos and they organized crime are able to whatever they want, we are talking back on 2009, before I sold my shit and moved to the USA.....anyways the point is that the longest there is no government law and order, anybody could be a criminal in mexico, but being a normal person and wanting to defend your own home is a big issue to the mexican government, that includes the police the army, why because of corruption......I figured now being in america for a few years and being able to legally own a firearm of any caliber the longest your able to pay for the local stamp and proper paperwork ,is a reflection of being in a civilized mexico I had a .22 rifle legally....there is no way to fight , not because you are afraid , but because they don't let you.. unless you buy an illegal gun in the black market and end up like doctor mireles in prison for alleged possession..I don't see how things could change at least peacefully.....because money has a way of corrupting people......plata o plomo....and unfortunately mexico has plenty of all the haters that would star to talk a gang of shit about Liberating by peaceful means, go and live in mexico and see for yourself....

    1. You can speak from the authority of life experience and, sadly, you're right. Mexicans don't deserve their miserable governments.

    2. Thanks for an insightful story! It is such a shame such a beautiful country with so much natural resources has such a lousy, lousy government...

    3. It is not remotely the same. Which is why Nestora was deemed not guilty by the federal court.

      In Mexico unlike other nations, we indigenous peoples are protected by several constitution rights, afforded only to indigena. One is to self govern, and self police. and yes they can remove institutionalized police forces if found to be ineffective or in this case in collusion with organized crime.

      This autodefensa movement has resulted in many communities in 13 states that have successfully established self governorship and police. For over 100 years. There is a national autodefensa union that convenes on an annual basis.

      As for "the doctor" he had no weapons and no one in Mexico believes he did. Honorable activists end up killed or imprison.

      You seem interested, research further, there is much to draw off of including the Mexican constitution.

    4. Great answer Lucio. May I add that the gray area in the constitution is if or if not ad organizers (Dr. M) have the legal right to carry protection (his body guards) when travelling out of their village. They do, however the gray area is in what circumstance. In this case Dr had no weapons his escorts (4) did. He should have not been arrested in the first place. We know that.

      the photos with all those being arrested with guns were actually AD in the village he visited the gob made it appear as though he brought a small army with him.

      He will be free. He has won the rulings. and if he survives his imprisonment he will have more power than ever.

    5. If you want a comparative, compare this to the autonomy of the Native American.

      Can you image if the government went into tribal land, arrested leaders, and forced institutionalization of government and policing?

    6. dual citizenship is how she is able to go to either country and organize. she is supposed to be protected under the laws of Mexico for indigenous people.

      good analogy with native americans. it really is the same thing.

  12. ... Revolution Won't Save Mexico, That Would Cause A Situation Much Worse ... Go Vote And Stop Crying About The Ruling Government ... Even Here In The USA, I Did Not Vote For Obama, Yet I Have To Obide By His Socialist Laws Which Have Been Passed/For Now ... It Sucks, I Know , But I Will Still Vote Again As It Can Make A Difference ... Everyone Of The Governments Mexican Parties Like PAN, PRI, GREEN PARTY, Etc., Have "Questionable" Or Connected People Working For Them ... It Is, What It Is ...

    1. It is impossible to effect change by voting in areas where the vote is rigged, and the honest candidates are murdered.

      It is true that in a peaceful society the way to improve is to vote for better people, But when those who are in positions of authority are abusing that authority to kill people and setup evil empires, you need to take them out of that position immediately, without delay. Every moment they are in charge, more damage is done.

      What if it was you and your family being killed and robbed and raped? Are you gonna wait for the vote?

      Study American history and you will learn that the only way we got to the point of having a free and peaceful society (that is being eroded by these same evil people) was by taking strong action against our oppressors. We tried to appeal to England for YEARS, to no avail. At some point you have to take direct action. Otherwise you are just a shmuck.

    2. Anglophiles in america are delivering the US to their beloved uk, betraying the american people all the way to hell, making of the US a brittish colony again, henry kissinger heading the cause...
      --benedict arnold would be so proud of these american children of his...

    3. Revolution is all that is left when all else has failed.

  13. God bless La Comandanta and all those who fight for a better Mexico.

  14. when I was in jail in Mexico I paid and got out

  15. Just when maria de los Angeles the imperial wife of mayor abarca of iguala Guerrero may get free because...comandante nestora may get 1000 years for no crime at all...
    --That is the billions of dollars the amerikkkan government "gives the mexican governing narco-mierdocracia at work...

  16. Fk u to all the. People who are talking shit about the post thanks chivis its a great post

  17. Lol lets face it, Mexico is fucked.. save the "i have a dream shit"

    1. & i'm not tryna sound like an ahole, but i'm 28.. i can only see things gettin worse, before they get better.. atleast in my life time.

    2. 10:55 mexico has a dream, the US have pipe dreams, and owes it's ass to china by the trillions of dollars, he he heee...and growing, more he he heeeh...

  18. "Mexican officials argue that nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands" Seriously? They are so infiltrated by corruption that the citizens have no choice. I fully support armed citizen militias and an armed citizenry otherwise citizens are nothing more than helpless sheep to be exploited by the cartels AND the government.


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