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Monday, March 7, 2011

Young Mexican police chief fired after reportedly fleeing to U.S.

The AP reports that 21-year-old Marisol Valles has been fired from her post as police chief of the violent town of Praxedis G. Guerrero when she didn't show up for work this morning. She is reportedly seeking asylum in the United States after receiving death threats from drug cartels. She may have difficulty making an asylum case, though, since U.S. immigration officials typically approve such request on the basis of political threats to an applicant's life or well-being, and Mexican drug violence is obviously not state-sanctioned.

Valles was hailed as the bravest woman in Mexico for agreeing to head up the town's police force when no one else applied for the job in October. Warring local drug gangs had beheaded other city officials--but Valles, a criminology student, said she overcame her fear for the good of her community. Valles said she would focus on administrative tasks and community-building, and would not take on the drug cartels.

Even so, she reportedly became the target of a campaign of intimidation. Mexican papers reported Friday that Valles fled the town and was seeking asylum in the United States after receiving death threats, but city officials released a statement claiming Valles was only traveling across the border for a brief stay to get her young son medical attention. They said she would be back on the job by this morning. When she didn't show up, they fired her.

A Chihuahua state human rights official named Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson told El Pais that Valles received death threats over the phone before fleeing. He said a local government employee accompanied her to the international bridge that crosses into Fort Hancock, Texas on Thursday. Her plan, according to the official, was to seek asylum.

The United States doesn't often deviate from the political criteria for granting asylum. In addition to proving a government-based threat, successful asylum applicants must show that the persecution stems from their race, religion, nationality, political views or membership in a particular social group.

Women officials have not been spared in the country's brutal drug violence. In Bravos, Mexico 28-year-old Érika Gándara was given the chief of police job by her uncle, the mayor, after no one applied. According to a report in the New York Times, she was taken from her home in December by armed gunmen and hasn't been seen since. Hermila García, appointed police chief of Meoqui, was killed in November after only a month on the job.

(Valles: AP)

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