In the first hours of August 6, 2020, Soledad Laciar entered a world she did not know. That was the day that two Córdoba police officers shot her teenage son, Blas, through the back of a moving car, killing him.
That was how Laciar learned first-hand the words “institutional violence” and discovered the “well-oiled mechanism” the police use for covering up their crimes, she told the Herald in a phone interview.
Shortly before the police who murdered him were convicted yesterday, Laciar told the media, with tears in her eyes, “I am going to die like the Abuelas, I am going to die fighting”. Sonia Torres, president of the Grandmothers (Abuelas) of Plaza de Mayo Córdoba, accompanied her at the courthouse.
“I want things to change and I know responsibility comes from the top down. We have to change what [the provincial government] means by ‘security’,” Laciar said.
“I will keep fighting beyond Blas.”
On the night of August 6, 2020, Correas was heading into town in a white Fiat Argo with four of his school friends. After a brief argument with the police at a checkpoint, officers Lucas Gómez and Javier Alarcón shot at the car as it drove off. One of the bullets hit Blas. The kids tried to take him to a clinic, but on the way, another police officer stopped them and made them get out of the car. They were detained a short time later.
Blas died of the gunshot wound.
That very night, Torres, Alarcón, and Deputy Police Commissioner Sergio González started to plan the cover-up. González ordered assistant deputy officer Yamila Martínez to plant a weapon at the crime scene.
At home, when she received a call telling her that Blas had been shot, Soledad did not suspect the police. She thought it was a common robbery.
Yesterday, Gómez and Alarcón were convicted of aggravated homicide and sentenced to life imprisonment, as prosecutors Fernando López Villagra and Marcelo Hidalgo had requested. Nine other officers were sentenced to up to four years and four months of prison for charges of false testimony, omission of duties, and concealment. Two of them were acquitted.
“It’s very sad that Blas never knew his sister”
Soledad Laciar knows that the court decision “will not bring Blas back.”
Right before he died, Blas had just stopped being jealous of his newborn sister Milagros and started to enjoy her company. Laciar said the girl, now a toddler, was mad at Blas when he didn’t show up to blow out the candles on his birthday cake this year: she didn’t understand why her brother wasn’t there.
Eight months after Blas was murdered, Laciar gave birth to her fourth child, Martina, who is now two. “It’s very sad that Blas couldn’t get to know her, because she looks just like him, she is like a clone. She would love to have a sister that looks exactly like he does, I know that,” Laciar laughed.
Laciar has still not found the words to tell her daughters what happened to Blas. “How am I supposed to explain to them that his brother was shot by the police if every day, I tell them to say hello to the officers in the square?” she asked. “But God and Blas will illuminate me”.
Over the years, both Martina and Milagros, like Blas’ brother Juan, have participated in the “Justice for Blas” campaign.
“A turning point”
Blas’ murder attracted the attention of international media outlets, organizations, and the national government. “It was a turning point regarding the visibility of police violence in Córdoba,” Amnesty International’s deputy director Paola García Rey told press after the verdict. “It is a landmark case: the young 17-year-old was shot in the back, stopped from seeing a doctor, and left for dead.”
“This decision symbolizes a first step in the right direction – when judiciary institutions investigate and commit, justice is attainable.”
The national Secretariat of Human Rights was an observer and amicus curiae in the case. “Clearly, it is an example sentence that gives us tools to keep building a policy against institutionalized violence,” Human Rights Secretary Horacio Pietragalla told the Herald. “We will demand that Congress debate our bill against institutionalized violence, and we have to push for Córdoba to take action because this is not the first court decision against the Police.”
Laciar herself is also convinced that the provincial government is responsible, and that top authorities there were aware of the police’s responsibility and attempted cover-up within hours of the shooting. “The government played a macabre game,” she said.
“In a way, the police are also a victim of this system that the government does not want to end. After 40 years of democracy, these horrible practices are still ongoing.”