Celebrate International Women's Day this March 8th by giving your political and financial support to the campaign to free Nestora Salgado, an indigenous feminist leader, naturalized U.S. citizen and political prisoner in Mexico. This holiday, initiated by socialist women over 100 years ago, is a time to honor the strength and courage of working-class women and their battles for equality and justice.
Nestora Salgado embodies the spirit of International Women's Day
For several years, Salgado divided her time between her home in Washington State and her impoverished hometown of Olinalá in Guerrero, Mexico. Witnessing growing violence, she got involved with a legal indigenous community police force that defended residents from violent criminal cartels and corrupt officials. Eventually, Nestora was elected as the coordinator. During her tenure, the crime rate dropped by 90%. In addition to putting a stop to murders and kidnappings, the community police addressed issues like domestic violence and countered attempts to force girls into prostitution.
In August 2013, Salgado was arrested on fabricated charges as part of a wider crackdown on the community self-defense movement. Held without a trial, she is in a maximum-security federal prison, in brutal conditions including solitary confinement 23-24 hours a day. As a woman leader, she has received especially harsh and sexist treatment; prison authorities told her it is because she "acts like a man."
Last year, a federal judge in Mexico ordered Salgado's release. State officials refused. This January, the interim governor of Guerrero urged the prosecutor to drop the charges. The prosecutor refused and there are reports that he is trying to scrape together new charges that could result in a 1,000 year prison sentence!
Salgado has become a symbol of growing resistance to state repression. Mass demonstrations in Mexico and elsewhere have connected the issues of Salgado, other political prisoners and government quelling of dissent. In September 2014, Mexico erupted in gigantic protests following the kidnapping and murder of 43 students at a teachers college in Ayotzinapa, Mexico. Nestora, who had collaborated with these students prior to her arrest, sent a message from prison to the demonstrators:
"…we must raise our voices and we must be heard now because if not now, then never. Do your best, muchachos, continue studying and preparing yourselves because we all know that the government wants us to remain ignorant and backward. That is why they promote and protect the criminals. That is why they harbor the drug dealers. Why? They want to keep los muchachos drugged and powerless. No, muchachos, recharge your batteries and let's show them that we are intelligent and that we can overcome."
The Libertad Para Nestora / Freedom for Nestora committee http://freenestora.org/, spearheaded by Nestora's family and with the participation of every Radical Women chapter, has connected the dots between military aid from the U.S. and stepped-up repression and government corruption in Mexico. Nestora's supporters have spoken out against police brutality in the U.S. and marched with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Now is a critical time to stand with Nestora
In February, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on Mexico to act immediately to protect Nestora's "life and physical integrity." Denied medical attention, she suffers from severe neuropathy, kidney problems, and chronic pain, which have caused dramatic weight loss. The commission ordered the Mexican government to provide immediate and comprehensive medical treatment. Mexican law requires that the government abide by findings of the hemisphere's primary human rights monitor. This has forced the government into negotiations with Nestora's lawyers and family.
Your support right now can make a difference
--Contact Secretary of State John Kerry to urge the U.S. State Department to take action. The department has been nearly silent on the illegal imprisonment of Salgado, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Tell Kerry to demand that Nestora receive medical attention and to intervene to secure her immediate release. Write Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20520. Call 202-647-6575 Ext. 8 or send an email via the online form at http://www.state.gov/contact/.
-- Donate (http://freenestora.org/donate/) to the Libertad Para Nestora / Freedom for Nestora committee. The new negotiations are an exciting opening. But there are tremendous legal expenses. Lawyers from the International Human Rights Clinic at Seattle University School of Law are donating their time. But the family needs to raise $25,000 to pay for legal representation inside Mexico. Your contribution will also help expand the public pressure campaign. Every penny you give helps.
-- Endorse the international campaign to free Nestora. Join the more than 160 organizations and community leaders (http://freenestora.org/endorsers/) who have endorsed the call for Nestora's freedom. Send your endorsement and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for taking action. Together, we can build the fight to free this brave indigenous woman leader.