The oral and public trial against union leaders accused in Chubut of leading the 2019 revolts due to the economic crisis in the province comes to an end. “In Chubut there is a flagrant violation of human rights carried out by the provincial state,” he told PageI12 the leader of the Ctera teachers union, Alejandro Demichelis, alluding to the accusations against a teacher and two teaching assistants who participated in the mobilizations for the non-payment of salaries and that ended with camps in front of the governor’s office and the partial occupation of the legislature . “These are armed cases in which the police themselves confessed in the trial that they were spying on the participants of the marches. It is a plan that has the objective of criminalizing social protest,” said Noelia Silva, a member of the NGO Commission Against Impunity. and For Justice, which accompanies the union members in the trial.
“The accused comrades in this trial are nothing more than a scapegoat for a government that failed to provide any response to the economic crisis that the province has been going through for years,” said Demichelis from Chubut, where he traveled on behalf of Ctera to bring teachers processed the support of the union at the national level. The open trial against the former secretary general of the Chubut Education Workers Association (ATECh), Santiago Goodman, and the teaching assistants enrolled in the state union ATE, Mariana Castro and Marcela Ancaleo, as alleged perpetrators of fires in the Chubut legislature and the Provincial Government House during the 2019 protests, keeps unions and social movements on alert. “They want to discipline by criminalizing social protest instead of trying to respond to demands and claims. And what is even more serious, they carry out illegal espionage on leaders and militants,” said Demichelis, who told this newspaper that Ctera will make “a presentation before the Secretary of Human Rights”, to denounce the illegal espionage in Chubut.
The economic crisis in Chubut is longstanding. In 2018, teachers carried out two strikes due to non-payment of salaries, which reached arrears of up to three and four months. Without a response from Governor Mariano Arcioni, they called for a new national strike in 2019 after the aggressions received by Chubut teachers while they made a cut on a provincial route. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the death of two teachers, Jorgelina Ruíz Díaz and María Cristina Aguilar, who were returning from Comodoro Rivadavia after participating in a teaching plenary. A national strike was declared for the next day, September 18, 2019, and they mobilized to the legislature and the Government House, where some groups entered public buildings while some fires started outside.
The trial initially had four defendants. One arranged with a probation and three remained. Master Goodman and the two assistants. At the hearing against Goodman, Ancaleo and Castro, declared Michael Barrera, Deputy Inspector of the Investigations Area, summoned after presenting an investigation report and video material made by himself to the prosecution, on September 17, 2019, dressed in civilian clothes and in an “unidentifiable” car. The testimony began with the account of how he and several of his companions were sent by the head of the area to carry out the task of filming the people who were demonstrating that day, starting at approximately 6:00 p.m., and continued with the description of the events that, in addition to filming, he personally observed.
“Presentations were made for the annulment of the case before Judge María Tolomei, who was in charge of the file, due to the scandalous testimonial statement of a police officer who confirmed that the protesters were being illegally spied on,” said Noelia Silva, reviewing the trial. According to Ctera in a statement, “the judge partially accepted the annulment,” but only of the police officer’s testimony based on espionage. If found guilty, the three education workers face the request of the prosecution for five years in prison.
“The repression and illegal espionage were the response that the provincial government gave to the social conflict that the province is experiencing caused by the economic crisis that we have. They try to generate discipline by criminalizing social protest,” said the member of a non-governmental organization that works against impunity. “This is not the only trial. Several leaders or members of organizations that demonstrate in the street have already been through this situation,” added Silva. At the hearing this Monday, the arguments of the prosecution and the defense are expected to be read. Then the judge can issue her ruling during the day or in the next 72 hours.