May 10, 2011— -- Marisol Valles Garcia now gazes toward Mexico from the safety of the United States.
"My country is so close, but so far away," she said.
Six months ago, they called Valles Garcia the bravest woman in Mexico. The petite but fiery 20-year-old student took a job no one else wanted: police chief in a border region terrorized by the drug war, where police chiefs have become an endangered species. Her predecessor was tortured by drug cartels and then beheaded.
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"We were fighting for our town, our community," said Valles Garcia.
She served the town of Praxedis for a few short months. Then came the death threats.
"They threatened to kill me, my family, my baby boy. I was scared ... couldn't even sleep ... always wondering, when are they coming to get me."
Unfortunately, fear and intimidation have scored another victory along the U.S.-Mexican border, and Valles Garcia is now in the United States, pleading for political asylum.
"I want tranquility ... for my family," she said.
As police chief, Valles Garcia hired more officers, increasing the number of women on her team of 12, but with three shotguns -- not to mention one squad car in a city of 10,000 -- few were armed. "Our weapons will be principles and values," she said when she took the job, although Valles Garcia did have two armed bodyguards. She was the first police chief to crack down on domestic violence, and vowed not to get involved in the drug war.
But it was hard to avoid.
Many said Valles Garcia was too young and naive for the job -- warring Mexican drug cartels have made Praxedis one of the most violent spots in the world. In the past year alone, 2,500 people were killed in the Juarez Valley.
"I never expected things to get this ugly," said Valles Garcia.
When she took the police chief job, Valles Garcia famously said, "We're all afraid, but we should not let fear defeat us."
"There will always be fear, I'm still afraid. But as long as we're breathing," she said, still sounding optimistic, "we can dream for a better world."
She speaks for the people she's left behind in that beautiful but violent Mexican valley.
"Don't ever lose hope," she said in a message to them. "Continue fighting for your children. I'm sorry I had to leave, but it's better to be safe and alive here ... than to be dead in Mexico."
If you are interested in helping Valles Garcia you can contact her lawyer, Carlos Spector at firstname.lastname@example.org or 915-544-0441.