Photo via La Voz

Defense Minister Oscar Aguad confirmed yesterday that the 44 crew members of the ARA San Juan Submarine, which as of today has been missing for 20 days, are deceased. Even though Navy spokesperson Enrique Balbi made this announcement last week when informing the end of the search and rescue operation, Aguad’s words mark the first time a government official admits the fatal outcome.

In an interview with TV channel TN, the minister explained the search operation is no longer trying to rescue the vessel’s crew members after receiving a report from the Navy, which indicated that the “extreme weather conditions in which the event took place and the time that passed [since it last communicated] were incompatible with human life.”

As a result of this, journalist Joaquín Morales Solá asked him whether that meant “they are all dead.” “Exactly,” Aguad answered.

The minister went on to clarify this doesn’t mean the operation will be cancelled, as the Macri administration “is committed to finding the submarine.” However, the decision upset the crew’s family members a great deal, and led them to begin demanding the operation goes back to searching their loved ones considering the possibility they are alive.

When consulted about this, Aguad said the current search “is not incompatible with the families’ request.” “The Navy’s report set a limit [to the search and rescue operation] and international norms demand a limit. We can’t be indefinitely searching for life when the conditions for life are not there,” he added.

Despite the explanation, the families’ discontent is such that the government has decided to postpone declaring mourning days to honor the crew, as well as a public statement from President Macri.

In another passage of the interview, Aguad informed the vessel had reported an incident similar to the one that constitutes the main hypothesis of its disappearance: “there was a similar incident, water came in[to the submarine] through the snorkel, but in that case the water didn’t reach the batteries. The captain noticed that and requested that in 2018, when the submarine was set to go into scheduled reparations, the problem be checked.”

However, he clarified that before the mission began, the captain confirmed the vessel “was in perfect condition to operate.” “