U.S. Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash) is speaking out on behalf of a Renton woman who’s been held in a Mexican prison for 10 months.
Smith tells KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz that Nestora Salgado, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Renton, was trying to help fight crime in her old hometown in Mexico when she was arrested.
“It’s her home village where her family was from originally,” says Smith. “As in many places in Mexico, there is inadequate security. In fact, it’s in Mexican law that local citizens can form their own security, basically their own police force. So she was part of one of those, and they were trying to enforce the law.”
As Smith understands, Salgado was arrested when in one instance, the local citizens’ security group arrested some people for dealing drugs. Following those arrests, Smith says the state came in and arrested her for kidnapping, along with several other people who faced a variety of different charges. The family brought the case to Smith’s attention.
“I looked at the case. It is just horrific,” says Smith. “There’s been no due process. Basically, they violated all manner of different aspects of Mexican law and the federal courts in Mexico have ordered her release. The state courts have ignored it. It’s a gross human rights violation. We’ll do everything we can to try to get her free.”
Smith says the federal court in Mexico found that Salgado and the others were not acting outside of the law, and that it was part of their legal right to form this security force.
“It’s simply a matter of apparently the state did not like these local citizens taking control of security, and there is some sort of political difference there, I’m not sure what it was,” says Smith. “There’s really no legal justification whatsoever for this arrest, the federal courts of Mexico have made clear.”
Salgado was just trying to help clean up the community where she grew up, Smith says.
“With all the drug lords and everything going down in Mexico, communities have to work very, very hard to maintain peace and security,” says Smith. “She was down there helping her community try and have a better life.”
Smith says the whole situation is frustrating and he’s spoken to Salgado’s husband and daughter, and has a hard time imagining how difficult this must be for them.
“It’s frustrating, just as an outsider trying to help, to be part of her family and to witness this and see the incredible injustice and not be able to simply fix it. I can’t even imagine. It’s got to be beyond frustrating.”
Smith hopes that by bringing attention to the case, it will make the U.S. step up and put more pressure on the Mexican government.
“Thus far, they’ve only really made inquiries about it. They have not pushed it,” says Smith. “I understand, in general, the State Department’s approach is, U.S. citizens do get arrested abroad with some frequency and you have to respect the other country’s justice system, but to a point.
“When we’re at the point now where the other country’s justice system, the federal government, has said this is an unlawful imprisonment, it seems to me that we can be a little bit more aggressive, so that’s part of what we’re trying to do is keep putting pressure on the State Department to raise this issue.”
Smith says people can help put the pressure on by writing to their senators and writing their representatives in Congress.
“Let members of Congress know this is important so I can build more support to put pressure on the Mexican government,” says Smith.
Rantz thinks this is something everyone should get behind. “We have an American citizen who is unjustly being kept behind bars in Mexico, and something needs to be done.”