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Rep. Smith Pushes For Release of Renton Woman Being Held In Mexican Prison

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Grisel Rodriguez, left, and Jose Avila, right, pose for a photo, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, in their apartment in Renton, Wash. They are holding a photo of Avila with his wife, Nestora Salgado, who has been detained since she was arrested Aug. 21, 2013.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, says the United States should be doing more to free a Renton woman being held in a Mexican prison. Nestora Salgado was arrested last August in the state of Guerrero, Mexico after helping to organize a local militia of indigenous people — something allowed under Mexican law.

Appearing alongside Salgado’s daughter and husband at a news conference in Seattle, Smith said he’s done what he can to make Secretary of State John Kerry and the Obama administration aware of Nestora Salgado’s situation in Mexico.

“But we would like them to be more involved, and we’re going to keep pushing on them to be more involved,” Smith said.

Advocates for Salgado, including the International Human Rights Clinic at the Seattle University School of Law, say her human rights have been violated. A federal judge in Mexico has dismissed most charges against her, yet she remains behind bars. A delegation of Mexican lawmakers, who visited Salgado, wrote in a report that she is confined to her cell 24 hours a day and denied access to clean water.

At the news conference, Salgado's daughter Grisel Rodriguez-Salgado said her mother is being denied other basic needs.

“My mother complains of being hungry during every single visit that my sister is able to make to the prison where she is being held. My family and I are pleading for your help to secure her release and bring her back home,” Rodriguez-Salgado said while fighting back tears.

Salgado, who split her time between the U.S. and Mexico, got in trouble when the indigenous police force she commanded arrested a local politician for corruption. Such community police forces have been sanctioned by the government as a way to help indigenous people protect themselves from drug and other violence.

Since Salgado's imprisonment, there have been protests against it around the world,including in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Smith likened the efforts to free Salgado to the actions taken a few years ago to free Tacoma native Jason Puracal, who was wrongfully convicted of drug trafficking in Nicaraugua.

Smith said more than two years of work and widespread media attention helped secure Puracal's release in 2012. He hopes the same attention focused on Salgado will have the same result.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.