Numerous testimonies prove cases of persecution based on trade union affiliation, political affiliation, race, trigger-happy police and torture in the province of Cambiemos(1)
By Ailín Bullentini
“Jujuy experiences an untold succession of attacks and persecution of social and political organizations,” concludes a recent report drawn up by human rights activists and national and provincial legislators about “the violations of democratic freedoms” in the territory governed by the radical(2) Gerardo Morales. The commission that drew up the report based it on complaints from citizens, trade unions and social movements from Jujuy, that “allowed them to verify” the “repressive situation and violation of democratic freedoms,” that that province experiences. The testimonies prove cases of persecution due to trade union affiliation, political affiliation, social movement affiliation (racial and environmental, among other causes), as well as reveal cases of trigger-happy police and torture inside police stations. The commission decided to share what they had seen and heard with an alert directed towards the rest of Argentina: “The government of Morales seeks to transform Jujuy into the national capital of repression and impunity. A laboratory, which, if successful, they will intend to implement on a national level.”
Some twenty something members of human rights organizations, national and provincial deputies of Jujuy, of different political colors came together earlier this past month in the provincial capital to listen to what persecuted acti
vists, laid off and suspended workers, mistreated and stigmatized young people had to say. There were members of CELS (link in English), of the Argentine League for Human Rights, of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights and the Association of Ex-Detained-Disappeared(3). Also in attendance were workers from the Center of Professionals for Human Rights, of the Coordination Against Police and Institutional Repression, of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights – La Matanza and of Justice Now!; of Mothers and Family Members of Ex-Political Prisoners of Jujuy, of the collective of Ex-Political Prisoners of Ledesma and of Ex-Prisoners of Libertador San Martín. Some of Milagro Sala’s lawyers participated, deputies and legislators from the national, local Frente de Izquierda, as well as the Frente de Izquierda (FIT)(4) of the province of Neuquen, from the Frente para la Victoria (FPV)(5) and of Peronismo para la Victoria(6),as well as the Frente Unidos y Organizados por la Soberanía Popular from Jujuy, which the Tupac Amaru(7) movement forms part of.
“It is significant that we have come together around one demand, despite our differences. It demonstrates that this is just, that we are talking about grave human rights violations,” Myriam Bregman, national deputy for the FIT remarked. “It’s about an enormous denial of the state of law,” continued Araceli Ferreyra, a colleague from Peronismo para la Victoria. “It is that, from the time Milagro Sala was arrested(8) last January, it was every man for himself, and they began to learn of “serious” stories: layoffs, extortions, direct attacks by the security forces, suspensions, threats. “A ton of them, because Sala’s case was the most well-known, but since then that which was unleashed in Jujuy was a true witch hunt, of the opposition, of activists, of anyone who was insistent against impunity. Morales didn’t leave anyone untouched by persecution,” the deputy for the FIT added.
Then they decided to organize a meeting that would serve as a safe space for the victims of that hunting ground. “There were a lot of people that decided to come by,” said the deputy. The Gendarmeria(9) received some of the meeting’s participants, such as Deputy Ferreyra and provincial deputy from Neuquen Raúl Godoy, with intense and “suspicious” searches of the cars that brought them from the airport to the hotel. Infantry “lurked all day long” around the place where
they had the meeting, where, weeks before it was known that it was being “spied” on by the intelligence services. To this day, both participants and accusers continue to receive threats: the day before yesterday, Natalia Morales, an PTS(10)activist from Jujuy received an anonymous Whatsapp message that told her that “the police in Jujuy” followed her and that she was considered by “the intelligence services that respond to (the governor, Gerardo) Morales,” as “the new Milagro Sala.” She was one of the former workers at the Secretary for Family Agriculture that denounced the persecution of trade unions in the meeting.
In search of condemnation
The purpose of the report is so that the facts that form part of it “can be sufficiently shared and known to generate the urgent and necessary condemnation.” “The commission on human rights of the Chamber of Deputies must take action,” said Ferreyra, who let it slip that among the possibilities to “revert” the situation that they imagine, there is impeachment and intervention in the province. “There isn’t any record in 30 years of democracy of the type of persecution that Morales is carrying out,” she said.
“It’s dangerous to see the image that Jujuy means,” said Bregman, in reference to the framework of political alliances. “It’s a provincial government that is very much supported by the national government, by President Macri Gato, integrated by a UCR governor and a vice-governor that comes from Sergio Massa’s(11) political space. It is the unity of three political spaces that are dedicated to advancing against workers and activists.”
The human rights activists and legislators detected that “the untold situation of attacks and persecution of social and political organizations,” began with the arrest of Sala and of other members of the Tupac Amaru movement and is “framed” by the extension of the High Court of Justice where active “members of the UCR who created their own scandalous reform in order to assume their position” were named as judges. With their own majority in the highest judicial authority of the province “they began a witch hunt which demonized any popular and working class demand, furthermore paving way for the plans of budget cuts and layoffs of the bosses and the government,” the document states. Some examples: layoffs and dismissals in the Secretary of Family Agriculture and in public education; layoffs and suspensions in steel companies and sugar mills; arrest of trade union internal commissions, repression of workers. Furthermore, they denounced the application of the Contraventional Code approved during the last provincial administration “that criminalizes the youth, poverty, and protest and gives superpowers to the police.”
There are transcripts that appear in the report – in most cases, with the names changed “for the security of the accusers” – of the testimonies received during the meeting. These are some fragments of that which was declared before the commission:
Political persecution. “I am from the Communist Party. My comrade Juan Nieva from the Marina Vilte organization comes by my house to pick me up (in a truck). He says to me, ‘I think that that white car behind us (white VW) has been following us from your house.’ ‘Let’s see, do a U-turn,’ I tell him and we do a U-turn, and the car behind us also does a U-turn. We stop the car and the other car stops as well. It was a white VW, windows tinted. We drove on Route 9 and there was a vehicle check point. Then I say to my comrade: ‘Stop by the side of the rode and tell the police that that car is following us.’ When we stop by the side of the road and I get out to talk to those policemen, the white car stops and two people get out and start running towards me. Showing their badge, they say ‘Investigations Brigade,’ and they say ‘You get out of the car and get in the car,’ obviously with insults. ‘We are following you on the orders of Gerardo Morales. Now get out…if I want I can call him and he can put you in jail,’ and so on and so forth. He starts to ask me for personal information, he asks me where I work, where I study, what degree I study. And in repeated opportunities, he wanted to know which trade union I belonged to and in which university student organization I was active in.” Persecution of trade unions. Silvio “Chopper” Egüez, worker at the La Esperanza sugar mill: “I’ve worked for the business for 36 years. Two months ago we had an assembly of 300 people, where the decision was made to go and agitate against the bosses. Because this business, that is going bankrupt, has managers from both the government and from private entities. And we denounced it. They argue that we were violent, that we broke the administration sector, that we broke a door, that we beat up a HR person. All of that is a lie. And they suspended us 19 people for 29 days. Of those 19 people, 9 of us were criminally charged.
Julio Mamaní, delegate of Zapla Steel, member of the PTS-FIT: “Good afternoon everyone. I am a delegate in the maintenance sector. They brought charges against us two years ago, when we went on strike for salary demands. At Zapla Steel, we went on strike for quite a while, an entire month. Then the owner of the company brought charges against us. The charges are for “forced strike,” that was how they defined it, sadly. That which I want to emphasize is that it was dormant for two years and when the new government came to power, sadly, they began – like everyone says here – to come after us. To come after people that are in charge of representing the workers. We are the three most visible members of the trade union. We are always in all of the struggles.”
Trigger-happy police and torture in police stations. People from the San Pablo de Reyes neighborhood. A family member of one person who was arrested: “We suffered a search of our home, supposedly someone, Iturbe I believe is the last name, brought charges against us, not only against us but against 9 more people, because things had disappeared. They did a search, they turned everything in the house upside-down. I have baby brothers, they have entered very violently. They didn’t show us identification, the cars didn’t have license plates. And they took them, 9 boys were arrested. They took them and they said that supposedly it was to look for criminal records, and they said that at 12 pm they were going to let them go, 12 pm passed, then 1 pm, then 2 pm and they didn’t let them go. They didn’t let us give them food or anything. Then at like 10 or 11 at night, they freed them. Of the 9 houses that they searched, they didn’t find anything.”
(1) Cambiemos is the current ruling political front that is made up of PRO (the political party of President Macri Gato), the UCR (Unión Civica Radical) and other smaller parties.
(2) Member of the UCR (see above)
(3) Detenido/a-desaparecido/a (detained-disappeared) is a term used to describe those who were illegally and secretly imprisoned during Argentina’s last military dictatorship, “secretly” meaning that there was no official record of them passing through any official prison, and they were kept in “clandestine” prisons that only the military and police knew about.
(4) An political front composed of the far-left (generally Trotskyist in orientation) parties
(5) The political front of the kirchnerist movement
(6) A congressional bloc that is a spin-off of the FPV
(7) The political movement created by Milagro Sala, an indigenous activist associated with the kirchnerist movement who is currently imprisoned in Jujuy. She was initially arrested for a public protest that involved occupying a plaza, but the government later justified her imprisonment on account of charges of corruption. The UN committee on arbitrary detentions considers her to be a political prisoner of the Argentine government.
(8) See above
(9) Argentine National Guard
(10) Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas, a far-left, Trotskyist party that forms part of the FIT
(11) Sergio Massa is a current National Deputy and the leader of the Frente Renovador, a political space that broke from the FPV in 2013 and is generally considered to be a more conservative version of Peronism.
[My translation of an article from the newspaper Página/12. You can find the original article in Spanish here (link:http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/elpais/1-313036-2016-10-30.html). The bolded numbers next to certain words are footnotes that provide information and context for readers who are not familiar with Argentina.]