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20-year-old police chief escapes to the US

Last updated on: March 10, 2011 09:50 IST

20-year-old police chief escapes to the US

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A Mexican town's decision last year to appoint a college going mother-of-one to head a police force in the heart of a traditional route for narco-traffickers had left many people astonished

Marisol Valles, 20, who was studying criminology, was appointed as chief of police of the northern Mexican border town of Praxedis Guadalupe Guerrero, in Chihuahua State. Today, she is seeking asylum in the United States to escape death threats.

Valles, who was hailed as Mexico's bravest woman for taking up such a post in Juarez valley -- which is a strip of about a dozen towns and villages where shadowy groups slaughter and mutilate police and civilians with impunity -- has been sacked.

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Image: Marisol Valles talks to the media during a news conference in Praxedis G Guerrero on October 20. The town is one of Mexico's most dangerous drug war towns on the US border, where policemen have quit and officials have been killed
Photographs: Gael Gonzalez/Reuters
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Valles was heading a force of just 13 agents

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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 Juarez Valley, just 35 miles south of Ciudad Juarez.

Valles was heading a force of just 13 agents, nine of whom are women, with one working patrol car, three automatic rifles and a pistol.


Image: Marisol Valles Garcia sits at her desk at the police station in Praxedis G Guerrero
Photographs: Gael Gonzalez/Reuters
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In 2010, about 3100 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez

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"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.

Mexico's Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels are engaged in a bitter fight for control of Ciudad Juarez and its surrounding towns, key smuggling routes into the lucrative US market.

Last year, about 3100 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez, which has a population of 1.2 million, in violence authorities have blamed on the drug trade.


Image: A policeman stands guard after a grenade explosion
Photographs: Tomas Bravo/Reuters
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Her appointment had upset some traditionalists

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Garcias' appointment had upset some traditionalists and raised fresh questions about the state's capacity in an area, which has seen an exodus of residents amid massacres, beheadings and home burnings.

Garcia and her family are at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centre in El Paso, Texas, awaiting a hearing in their asylum case, Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson, a state human rights ombudsman in Chihuahua (where Praxedis is located) told media agencies.

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.



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