Marisol Valles Garcia, the 20-year-old police chief who made international headlines as the bravest woman in Mexico, was fired Monday, reportedly after fleeing to the United States to escape death threats.
Mexico, it seems, has lost another hero to the drug war.
The criminology student who is raising a young son had taken the job in October when no one else would apply, and after the previous chief of the small town of Praxedis G. Guerrero had been beheaded. In recent months she shifted law enforcement's approach toward an emphasis on prevention through increased police presence in the street. But fierce intimidation apparently took its toll in a town overrun by traffickers in the violent Juárez Valley, just 35 miles south of Ciudad Juárez.
“The mayor has decided to remove the official from her post after she did not return on the day agreed and did not notify [us] about prolonging her period of absence,” the mayor’s office said Monday in a press release.
Ms. Valles Garcia and her family are at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in El Paso, Texas, awaiting a hearing in their asylum case, says Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson, a state human rights ombudsman in Chihuahua, where Praxedis is located. The ombudsman told the Monitor that the state asked him to find an immigration lawyer for the family.
The Mexican Consulate General in El Paso said its immigrant protection department is following the case, but would not provide details because there is a process underway by US immigration authorities.
Ms. Valles Garcia’s disappearance is the latest blow to morale in a region that has taken pride in the few heroes who have stood up to rampaging drug traffickers and who have suffered ill fate as a result.
Ericka Gandara, the only police officer who had not resigned in the border town of Guadalupe, also in the Juárez Valley, disappeared in December. She has yet to be found.
Human rights activist Josefina Reyes was killed last year followed by her brother, in Juárez, considered the most dangerous city in Mexico. In February, Reyes’ sister, brother, and sister-in-law were also found dead and the family is now seeking asylum outside Mexico.
In another border state, a 77-year-old rancher reportedly defended his property from traffickers who had come to take his estate by force in November. Alejo Garza of Tamualipas sent home his workers and holed up in his ranch with firearms, picking off four criminals one by one, until he was killed himself.
“We are in a stage where heroes are falling and this is a blow against society,” says Mr. De la Rosa Hickerson, the ombudsman. “But there will come a moment when society as a whole will say ‘enough.’ "