In 2012, a video released by La Nación and Clarín showed two young men being tortured in a police station in General Güemes, Salta Province. The six police officers accused of perpetrating the attack were sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison on April 3rd of this year. On Friday, one of the young victims, Mario Rodríguez, was found dead, hanging from a tree. The other torture victim, Miguel Ángel Martínez, previously attempted to commit suicide years ago but was stopped by one of his family members.
It’s been five years since the incident occurred in the small town of General Güemes in Salta; the video, which shows the victims being subjected to suffocation and drowning simulation was leaked over a year after it happened, and it is thought that it was leaked by an internal source.
“I did not know nor understand why they did what they did to me,” Rodríguez previously said in 2012, according to Clarín. After the leak of the tape, the provincial government ordered police protection for the two victims who were each 18 years old at the time of the attack. Four years later, their abusers have finally been sentenced to jail.
Rodríguez, Martínez, and two other youths in Salta were accused of raping a young girl in 2009. She appeared in court, saying that, “these guys ruined my life when I was a child.” Although the youths were freed, their liberation did not sit well with local residents.
The families of the six police officers – Marcos Gabriel Gordillo, Hector Raul, Gabriel Ramirez Leonardo Esteban Serrano, Matias Eduardo Cruz and Alberto Antonio Ontivero – also pleaded for the pardon of their family members.
Beyond the forced disappearances of thousands of Argentines during the military dictatorship in the 70s and 80s, police brutality continues to be a difficult reality to this day. If “social dissidents” are no longer primary targets, people from lower classes with less available resources to fight back against injustice are often victims of it today.
As Sebastian Lacunza, former Editor-in-Chief of The Buenos Aires Herald said in an interview with The Bubble, much of the current epidemic of police brutality in Argentina is a result of what happened in decades prior; there haven’t been any major reforms to the police system since the end of the dictatorship.
A video that was leaked in the autumn of 2015 showed a police officer in Tucumán Province brutalizing a teenager in his cell. The incident provoked a ton of backlash and outrage and also brought to light the long list of incidents involving police violence in the country.
“There is at least one crime of police violence every day,” said Gerardo Nechte, a lawyer and researcher for anti-police corruption and repression organization Correpi.
Such incidents in Argentina’s recent past include brutalizing non-violent protestors during marches that are met with little concern from government officials. Former Interior Security Secretary Sergio Berni once blamed protestors for getting shot during a protest against layoffs on the Pan-American Highway. And even though Macri condemned the violence, it was under his mayorship of the City of Buenos Aires when metropolitan police forces stormed a psychiatric unit where doctors and patients refused to leave when the ward was due to be renovated.