May 30th will mark the 500th day that Milagro Sala has been incarcerated. Her crime? Well, the answer will differ depending on who you ask. According to the government of Jujuy, Sala’s arrest was warranted on the grounds of “instigating criminal activity and disorder” during one of her protests in the capital of Jujuy. Others argue that Sala was arrested because her protests were politically inconvenient for the government of Jujuy, and deem her current preventative custody as unjust. The UN’s assessment on the matter claims that Sala’s current imprisonment is explicitly “arbitrary” and that she should be released until a judge finds her guilty of the charges filed against her.
Sala is the leader of the Tupac Amaru community organization based in the province of Jujuy. On the day of her arrest, January 16th, 2016, Sala was camping outside of a government building in the capital of Jujuy protesting better living conditions for the people of Jujuy — many of which self identify as being of indigenous descent.
She was eventually cleared of the original charges of criminal activity and disorder, but remains detained while later charges of fraud and extortion are being investigated.
In his letter, the Pope expressed sympathy for the Sala, concluding his letter with this passage: “I assure you of my prayer and my closeness and, please, I ask you not to forget to pray for me. May Jesus bless her and the holy virgin to take care of her”.
The Pope’s letter adds to the movements put in motion by the inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention who are calling for the release of Sala.