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21-year old Mexican police chief fired after seeking asylum in U.S.

By Aileen Donahue
On April 5, 2011

  • The Mavericks closed the game on a 23-11 run, thanks to the insertion of the three-point guard lineup, as Dirk Nowitzki (above) hit some clutch baskets at the end to hand the Hornets their first loss of the season. AP Photo/LM Otero


Criminology student Marisol Valles García was hailed as the bravest woman in Mexico when she was sworn in as police chief of Práxedis G. Guerrero, a small border town about 60 miles from Mexican murder capital Ciudad Juárez, wracked with violence from drug cartels competing for control of the region.

However, García was fired on March 7 after failing to return to work following a planned leave of absence, according to The Associated Press.

García was granted the leave to seek medical attention for her son, but amidst speculation that she had received death threats from members of drug cartels she has apparently fled and is now seeking asylum in the United States.

García, who is only 21 and has an infant son, took the position last October with the hopes of easing the fears that have gripped the citizens of Práxedis by focusing on preventive measures and building a sense of community in the town. García was a strong believer in nonviolence and did not carry a gun.

"The situation can improve if we believe in ourselves and believe there is hope," García told Reuters.

"I want to carry this through and show that we can do this… We are doing this for a new generation of people who don't want to be afraid anymore," she said.

Officials in Práxedis denied the reports that their police chief was missing. But when she failed to show up to work at the end of her leave she was fired, city officials said in a statement.

"In the absence of [García's] presence on the agreed-upon day, and since there was no notification of a need to extend the period of her absence, the mayor has decided to remove her from office," the statement read.

The Chihuahua Human Rights Commission told The El Paso Times that on March 8, García was released from a detention center in El Paso after an interview with immigration agents to establish a credible fear of returning to her home country. García is currently in hiding at an undisclosed location pending a hearing before an immigration judge in Dallas. A date has yet to be set.

García's departure comes at a particularly dangerous time for Mexican police officers and city officials. Since 2008, when Mexican president Felipe Calderón declared war on the drug cartels operating within the country, drug traffickers have given officers a choice of "plomo o plata": lead or silver, death or corruption.

García's predecessor as chief of police, Martin Castro, was abducted in January 2009, according to London's The Guardian. Days later, his severed head was found in front of the police station. At the time of García's appointment, Práxedis had been without a police chief for over a year.

Richland student Justina James thinks that García was brave to accept the position, but should have foreseen the risks involved.

"[Garcia] probably should have realized that she'd be putting herself and her family in danger when she took the job," said James.

"If the United States is the safest place for her now, though, she should be here to protect her family," she said.

According to a report in The New York Times, female officials have not been spared in the bloody conflict. In December, 28-year-old Érika Gándara, the only police officer in the town of Guadalupe, was abducted from her home by armed gunmen. Her whereabouts are still unknown. In Meoqui, police chief Hermila García was killed in November after serving for only a month.

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