Monday, July 11, 2011

Miss Ana is free: El Paso teacher released from Juárez cereso

by Daniel Borunda \ El Paso Times
Posted: 07/11/2011

An El Paso teacher was freed from a Juárez prison late Sunday after the Mexican attorney general's office announced it had dropped drug charges against her.

Protesters had marched Sunday demanding the immediate release of Ana Isela Martínez, whose freedom had been expected since a Mexican judge decided on Friday to drop all charges.

"She was freed unconditionally with all charges dropped," said Martínez's lawyer, Salvador Urbina. "We are very happy. There were more than 200 people here (outside the Cereso prison), cheering and praying."

The Mexican attorney general's office, or the PGR, on Sunday said it confirmed that Martínez was innocent and a target of a scheme that picked on commuters. The PGR also warned people who cross the international bridges regularly to be on alert.

Urbina said the PGR ratified the judge's order but Martínez's release had been delayed until the signed documents arrived in Juárez.

"Proceedings by Mexican authorities, how can I say this, are bureaucratic sometimes," Urbina said.

Martínez spent Sunday night in Juárez with her family and she planned to attend a Mass to give thanks this morning at her church, Urbina said.

Martínez lives in Juárez but has a U.S. work permit and commutes daily to work at La Fe Preparatory School in El Paso, where she is known as "Miss Ana."

Martínez had been jailed since May 26 when Mexican soldiers found marijuana in two duffel bags in her car¹s trunk on the Juárez side of the Stanton Street bridge express lane.

Soldiers found 88 pounds of marijuana, the Mexican attorney general's office said Sunday.

Martínez and her supporters have said she was innocent and did not know about the marijuana. A Mexican judge ordered her detained until trial.

Yet Martínez received a big break last week with the FBI's arrest of a suspected drug smuggler in a scheme of transporting drugs across the border in the trunks of unsuspecting commuters.

A criminal complaint stated smugglers would get a car's vehicle identification number and copies of car keys. A Juárez crew would use those keys to secretly load marijuana into a vehicle's trunk. The marijuana would then be removed in El Paso by a crew with duplicate keys.

According to the FBI document, Martínez's case was discussed by the alleged drug traffickers in recorded conversations.

Daniel Borunda may be reached at dborunda@elpasotimes.com; 546-6102.

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