A year after the jailing of social activist and indigenous leader Milagro Sala, the government of Argentina, under President Mauricio Macri, finds itself in an uncomfortable position as human rights groups the world over express their dismay over the situation.
In addition to leading the Organizacion Barrial Tupac Amaru, a neighborhood association active in the northwestern province of Jujuy, Sala also serves as a deputy for PARLASUR, the legislative body of the Mercado Comun del Sur (MERCOSUR) trade bloc (NotiSur, May 20, 2016). She has been locked up since Jan. 16, 2016, due to a confusing series of allegations with which the pro-Macri governor of the province, Gerardo Morales, has sought to remove her from the political stage.
While the Macri administration endorses the maneuvers made against Sala, a wide range of groups, including the Organization of American States (OAS), demand that the indigenous activist of Qulla descent be freed. All of the groups and organizations agree that the Sala case violates basic human rights guarantees included in the Constitution and in the various conventions, pacts, and international agreements to which Argentina is a party. They also note that the state, represented by Macri's government, is supposed to be responsible for protecting those guarantees.
Sala and Morales have a long political rivalry that the Jujuy governor is now trying to settle through what critics call the "addicted" legal system. The term refers to lower and high court judges that Morales appointed almost immediately upon taking office, on Dec. 10, 2015.
In late October, when the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) approached the Macri government to argue that Sala's jailing was "arbitrary" and to demand her immediate release, one of its suggestions was that the defendant's treatment, at the hands of the police and courts, was in violation of the legal privileges she is supposed to enjoy as a member of PARLASUR.
The pro-government daily La Nacion, in a Dec. 4 article, offered a basic summary of that treatment. "Sala was arrested and detained on Jan. 16, 2016, and accused of sedition for having organized her followers to occupy a public square until Morales agreed to meet and discuss Tupac Amaru activities," the newspaper explained. "Thirteen days later she was freed, but at the same time was informed that she would have to stay in jail on charges that happened to have been filed just the day before. These more...