Written by Carolina Ahumada.
“my face, my clothes and my neighborhood are not a crime”
Since compulsory isolation was installed in Argentina on March 20, 2020, the measures that followed to comply with it have made visible an escalation of institutional violence against young people from vulnerable sectors, people living on the streets, trans people, sex workers. Above all, young people from vulnerable sectors are permanently stigmatized and criminalized.
In the months of confinement, the list of names of adolescents and young people who died as a result of police violence did not stop. In Argentina this is called “easy trigger” (gatillo fácil). The case that is shaking society the most is Facundo Astudillo Castro (22) who has been missing since April 30 after being delayed by the police of the province of Buenos Aires for violating the quarantine while on his way to Bahia Blanca to meet his ex-girlfriend. Searches are currently being carried out to find his whereabouts. The last thing that was found was a kind of amulet that belonged to Facundo in a police station where the police had previously stated that they had not detained him. The prosecutor of the case requested the collaboration of the renowned Argentine team of forensic anthropology (who have worked in the recognition of bodies of people who had disappeared during the last Argentine dictatorship in 1976 as well as in the Malvinas War of 1982) to advance the cause.
According to a survey by the Provincial Commission for the Memory of Argentina, until July 29, 2020 in the province of Buenos Aires there had been 44 deaths from the lethal use of force during the quarantine, of which 29 were caused by members of the police of the province. Most of the deaths are of young, poor men.
Cases of homeless people arrested for not complying with isolation were also reported. The same as with sex workers and trans people, who are harassed by the police of the city of Buenos Aires.
The problem of institutional violence and arbitrary detentions is something that runs through the country in general: in Chaco, a QOM family (native people from the north of Argentina) was arrested through a raid in the middle of the night, attacking, beating and even sexually abusing minors. In the end they doused them with alcohol and threatened to set them on fire shouting “infected Indians”.
Other high profile cases of deaths at the hands of the police lately are Luis Espinoza (31), Florencia Magali Morales (39), Raul Davila (22), Lucas Veron (18) and Valentino Blas Correas (17).
Over the last few years, the names of Luciano Arruga (16), murdered by the police of the province of Buenos Aires in 2009 but disappeared until 2014, the police persecution that ended with the death of four adolescents between 13 and 22 years old in San Miguel del Monte (also province of Buenos Aires) or the murder of Diego Cagliero (30), in 2019, also after a police chase, have been in the public mind.
In conclusion, it is necessary to emphasize that the harassment of the security forces in Argentina towards young people is a situation that has been going on for a long time and with the COVID 19 pandemic, all it did was stand out. The excess with which the police act in the name of the public good only continues to discriminate and stigmatize being young and with certain characteristics (the “pibe chorro” as they say in the country: male, young, with a cap or hood that is presumed that use drugs or steals in order to get them).
As organized Young people, it is urgent for us to continue reporting this and to fight for their deaths not go unpunished.