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Female police chief flees Mexico for U.S. after threats

Image: Student assumes command of police headquarters in the municipality of Praxedis G. Guerrero
Marisol Valles Garcia, left, was appointed police chief of Praxedis G. Guerrero after two other candidates dropped out of the running following the killing of the town's mayor and his son.JESUS ALCAZAR / EPA
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A 20-year-old college student hired as police chief of a Mexican border town has left the job and fled to the United States after threats, an official said Friday.

Marisol Valles Garcia left the town of Praxedis G. Guerrero with her family, the El Diario newspaper cited Jorge Gonzalez Nicolas, an official investigating the threats, as saying.

Earlier a relative of hers had told AFP news service that she had "received death threats from a criminal group that wanted to force her to work for them."

She "went to the United States along with two relatives and will seek asylum," the relative said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Andres Morales, a spokesman for Praxedis G. Guerrero, said Valles Garcia was expected back at work on Monday after taking some time off to deal with family matters.

"Right now, these are rumors," he said of the asylum report, according to the El Paso Times.

But he acknowledged that Valles Garcia had gone to the United States, saying it was to seek medical treatment for her infant son, who has a lung ailment.

"If she doesn't return to work (on Monday) she could be removed," El Diario quoted Morales as saying, "though that would be up to the mayor."

Some reports said Valles Garcia left with her son and husband on Feb. 28, going across the border to Fort Hancock, Texas.

A U.S. Homeland Security spokesperson had no comment on the asylum report. "Asylum applications are confidential under immigration law," the official said, "and we may not discuss information regarding whether an individual has or has not filed an application."

Valles Garcia became police chief in Praxedis G. Guerrero  — home to some 10,000 people — after two other job candidates dropped out following the killing of the mayor and his son.

Now widely known as "the bravest woman in Mexico," she was studying criminology in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's most violent city, when she was appointed last October.

Word of Valles Garcia's apparent departure comes after Erika Gandara, a female officer and the sole representative of the law in the border town of Guadalupe, was kidnapped in December. Her fate is unknown.