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Female police chief in Mexico fired after fleeing to U.S.

The 20-year-old police chief of a Mexican border town who fled to the United States after death threats has been fired after failing to show up for work Monday.
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
/ Source: staff and news service reports

The 20-year-old police chief of a Mexican border town who fled to the United States after death threats has been fired after failing to show up for work Monday.

A statement from the city government of Praxedis G. Guerrero said Marisol Valles Garcia was given permission to travel to the United States for personal matters but that she failed to return to her post Monday as agreed.

Valles Garcia, who is also studying criminology in college, made international headlines when she accepted the job in October. The town had been without a police chief since her predecessor was shot to death in July 2009.

Local news media have reported that Valles Garcia might seek asylum in the United States after getting threats against her life, but there has been no confirmation of that. She reportedly fled with her husband and infant son.

But a relative of hers had told AFP news service last week 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.

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."

Chihuahua state Human Rights Commission official Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson said Valles Garcia's relatives and friends told him that she had received telephone threats last weekend.

A local official accompanied her to the international bridge connecting El Porvenir to Fort Hancock, Texas, he said.

Officials said they had tried to contact Valles Garcia since the rumors began circulating Thursday but she was not answering her cell phone.

Chihuahua state prosecutors' spokesman Arturo Sandoval said authorities had not received any reports or complaints of threats against Valles Garcia.

Drug violence has transformed the township of about 8,500 people from a string of quiet farming communities into a lawless no man's land.

Two rival gangs — the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels — are battling over control of its single highway, a lucrative drug trafficking route along the Texas border.

Soon after her appointment, Valles Garcia became known as "the bravest woman in Mexico."

Valles Garcia's 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.