World

Border Town Police Chief, Previously a College Student, Flees to U.S. Seeking Asylum

Twenty-year-old Marisol Valles Garcia listens to a question during a news conference after her swearing-in ceremony as the new police chief of the border town of Praxedis G. Guerrero, near Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010. Praxedis G. Guerrero was once a quiet farming town until two rival gangs, the Juarez and the Sinaloa drug cartels, began battling for the control of its single highway. (AP Photo/Raymundo Ruiz)

Twenty-year-old Marisol Valles Garcia listens to a question during a news conference after her swearing-in ceremony as the new police chief of the border town of Praxedis G. Guerrero, near Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010. Praxedis G. Guerrero was once a quiet farming town until two rival gangs, the Juarez and the Sinaloa drug cartels, began battling for the control of its single highway. (AP Photo/Raymundo Ruiz)

Marisol Valles García, the 20-year-old student who in October became police chief of the Praxedis G. Guerrero community, near Ciudad Juárez, has fled to the United States, relatives are telling various news outlets. The single mother is seeking asylum for her and her young son.

Agence France Press and the New York Post reported that relatives had told them the young mother had been threatened.

The Post quoted these sources as saying she’d "received death threats from criminal groups that wanted to force her to work for them."

Two rival gangs — the Juárez and Sinaloa drug cartels — have been battling for control of the towns single highway, a lucrative drug trafficking route along the Texas border.

Early this morning, the El Paso Times reported that town secretary Andres Morales was denying Valles García had left, saying she had simply asked for some time off to tend to her child. He claimed she’d be back to work on Monday.

Valles García was studying for a criminology degree last October, when she made headlines around the world by taking on the dangerous police chief job. The position had been empty for over a year. Her predecessor had been kidnapped in 2009, and his head had been deposited outside the police station a few days later.

"I took the risk because I want my son to live in a different community to the one we have today. I want people to be able to go out without fear, as it was before," Valles García said then.

Her departure comes just a few months after Erika Gandara, the only police officer in the border town of Guadalupe, went missing. Gandara’s whereabouts are still unknown.

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