‘It was a literal hunt’: Argentines march demanding release of imprisoned protesters

Meanwhile, five deputies hospitalized by the actions of security forces announced a lawsuit against the government

Reporting by Facundo Iglesia, Valen Iricibar and Martina Jaureguy

Following the fierce crackdown on protesters Congress last week, hundreds of people marched in Plaza de Mayo to call for the immediate release of those detained during the demonstrations against the Ley Bases.

The march was called by relatives, friends, and human rights groups of the sixteen people who remain in pre-trial detention in federal jails. Thirty-five people were arrested on Wednesday by security forces, including university students and some people who were not actively protesting. Seventeen of them have since been released and thirty-three are being charged with crimes ranging from public property damages to provoking violence and attacking Argentina’s constitutional order.

Some of the protesters in Plaza de Mayo also participated in Wednesday’s demonstrations. “It was a literal hunt,” said Evelyn, who chose not to give her last name due to security concerns. Evelyn is a member of the San Martín neighborhood assembly, like three of the detainees — Nicolás Mayorga, Camila Juárez Oliva, and Sasha Lyardet, also students at the Universidad Nacional de San Martín.

“Their arrest was arbitrary — we were not violent, they didn’t do anything wrong,” she added, rejecting the government’s accusations that they were behind an attempted coup d’etat. “We were protesting for our rights and now they are political prisoners.”

“The government is the terrorist, not students.” Photo: Valen Iricibar

A van carrying Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo drove around the circle where they traditionally hold their Thursday rondas and protesters chanted their support, occupying the western half of the plaza. Leaflets that read “Freedom for those detained for fighting” were showered on demonstrators, who also chanted the phrase.

Sebastián Zignego, president of the Joaquín V. González Institute’s student council, echoed the prevailing sentiment that the government intends to dissuade people from protesting against their measures. “I think that we have more reasons than ever to establish these campaigns of solidarity with the detainees,” he said. “[We have to] ask for their freedom and show that we will continue to fight against all the austerity measures and the fear they want to instill in us.”

“I wasn’t surprised that they called us terrorists, it’s the logical conclusion of criminalizing protests and making protesters the enemy, a strategy for us to stop people hitting the streets,” said Nereida of Columna Mostri, a group of LGBTQIA+ organizations, referring to the government’s communiqué accusing protesters of being terrorists enacting a coup d’état. She told the Herald that she’d attended demonstrations since childhood but now avoids going alone and declined to give her last name, also citing the current climate around protesting. 

“Argentine have their constitutional right to protest and we can’t do that because the terrorism is coming from the government. Kidnapping people and giving them trumped up charges for demonstrating — there’s your terrorism,” she said.

You may also be interested in: Families of imprisoned protesters demand their release, call for demonstration

Photo: Martina Jaureguy

‘They were absolutely berserk’

Earlier on Tuesday, five Unión por la Patria (UxP) deputies who were hospitalized during the fierce crackdown on protesters outside Congress last week announced that they would sue Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, Security Secretary Vicente Mario Ventura Barreiro and Navy Prefect Inspector Guillermo José Giménez Pérez for their “illegal actions.”

“It’s another episode in which Milei shows his disdain for the division of powers. The president started his mandate with his back turned to Congress and it’s a clear example that Milei has unleashed a program of repression in Argentina against deputies, citizens, and journalists,” said Germán Martínez at a press conference. “He aims to establish a state of emergency against Argentina’s constitutional guarantees.”

The lawsuit contends that security forces deliberately targeted the deputies for being from UxP and called for Bullrich, Ventura Barreiro and Giménez Pérez to be investigated. It highlights the “absolutely disproportionate and excessive use of gas because the interaction between the elected officials and federal security forces was in a non-violent context.” 

“They gassed us and left us blind, unable to breathe because they sprayed some of us in the mouth and they kept pushing us with their shields,” said Carolina Yutrovic, who represents Tierra del Fuego. “They were absolutely berserk, which has to do with the minister’s political decision.”

The deputies also described the detainees as “political prisoners” and repeated claims by one detainee that they faced torture: “If corroborated, we will present another lawsuit to denounce it.”

You may also be interested in: Federal court orders Bullrich to adapt her anti-protest protocol to the Constitution

Cover photo by Valen Iricibar


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