On February 22, 2016, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed my resolution calling on authorities in the State of Guerrero and in the Mexican Federal Government to end the illegal detention of longtime greater Seattle resident Nestora Salgado, and calling on the U.S. State Department to prioritize Nestora’s release in its diplomatic discussions with Mexico. The full text of the resolution can be read here. Watch the video* or read the transcript of my comments before the passage of the resolution below.
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I would like to motivate the Free Nestora Salgado City Council Resolution that we will be voting on today by first thanking the many activists, socialists, and trade union members who have been fighting tirelessly for Nestora Salgado’s release ever since she was arrested on August 21, 2013. In particular, I want to thank Nestora’s family, and her husband, José Ruiz Avila, who is here with us today. Thank you so much. We can only imagine the kind of sacrifice your family has had to make.
For those who are not aware, Nestora Salgado is a citizen of both the United States and Mexico. She raised her family in the greater Seattle area, in Renton, but then moved back to her hometown in the State of Guerrero. When she saw her community overrun by corrupt local officials and the drug cartels, she made use of her right under the Mexican constitution to form a legally-sanctioned community police force, which was then recognized by the Governor of Guerrero. However, when she began to do what she set out to do, which is actually do her job – investigating evidence linking local officials to drug and sex trafficking – she was arrested on spurious charges of kidnapping and has been incarcerated ever since.
I would urge you all to consider her courage. Mexico is in the throes of an undeclared civil war which, according to the Mexican National Institute of Statistics, has claimed 164,000 lives from 2007 to 2014, and a war which has seen the assassination of 1,000 municipal officials and 100 mayors during that period. Nestora had the courage to stand up to this violence. And because she defended her community, because she fought for justice, she is now in prison. Now it is our turn to come to Nestora’s defense.
Nestora Salgado is not alone. She is also part of a broader movement. She stands with the millions of undocumented workers in the U.S. and their families, fighting for basic human and democratic rights. She stands with the thousands of immigrant detainees fighting for humane conditions and for freedom, who, on several occasions, like Nestora Salgado herself, have gone on hunger strike to win their demands.
Nestora is part of the movement of workers and small farmers who have fought for two decades now against free trade agreements like NAFTA imposed on them by the corporate elite and their politicians in the U.S. and Mexico. These free trade agreements, we know, have devastated Mexican farmers and workers, creating mass unemployment and poverty, and forcing millions to emigrate to the U.S. Now, the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is being forced down the throats of working people. The TPP has been called NAFTA on steroids. This City Council, it should be noted, has taken a clear position against TPP and fast track. It is clear that we need to build a tremendous international mass movement of workers and the oppressed in order to fight against the international capitalist class.
Through Nestora’s campaign, I have also been made aware of the countless activists and organizers in Morena, in Mexico and in the U.S., who are fighting for Nestora’s freedom while also working to build a political party where workers, poor people, indigenous communities, socialists, and all marginalized groups can directly work for policies in favor of the 99%, not the 1%.
This issue is also important because, by voting in favor of this resolution, the City Council will make a statement about how we stand in solidarity with the Latino community in Seattle and the greater Seattle area, and the immigrant community in general. This is all the more important given the anti-immigrant and bigoted rhetoric that we are increasingly hearing around the nation.
Like so many of you, I want to walk alongside Nestora as she walks out of prison a free woman! Let’s make that moment a reality. Thank you for all of the work you have been doing. And I thank my fellow councilmembers in advance for this important statement in which we are asking Secretary of State John Kerry to expedite the steps to Nestora’s release.