Argentine President Mauricio Macri's cabinet received several social leaders at the Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires to discuss the release of Milagro Sala, a Parlasur lawmaker and Indigenous activist who founded the Tupac Amaru movement and who was arrested in mid-January on charges of inciting violence and later accused of other crimes.
The meeting was organized by Catholic leaders and the government accepted it be carried out two days after social organizations from the province of Jujuy agreed to remove the encampment they had maintained for 50 days on Belgrano Square, in front of the Governor Gerardo Morales.
However, the other encampment set up Jan. 28 at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires is still in place demanding Sala's immediate release.
Argentina's Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña, Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio, and Secretary of Religious Affairs Santiago de Estrada met with Alejandro “Coco” Garfagnini, coordinator of the Tupac Amaru movement, Jorge Lozano, president of the Episcopal Commission of Pastoral Social, or CEPAS, and activist Emilio Persico from Movement Evita. The talks lasted about 90 minutes.
Lozano, a close acquaintance of Pope Francis, had a key role in negotiating the end of the encampment in Jujuy, and in organizing Thursday's meeting.
However, Lozano made it clear that the Catholic church officials have not demanded Sala's release and that he had not talked to the pope regarding the Indigenous leader. He added that his role was only as a mediator.
Nevertheless, days earlier Lozano warned in a CEPAS statement that social movements, human rights groups and civil organizations were being labeled “suspicious” by Macri's government.
“We want (Sala) to be released before the trial, because she is illegally detained,” said Garfagnini. “The dialogue was frank and honest ... There is no concrete answer, but (government officials) seemed accessible.” Garfagnini added that there may be more meetings with the government to discuss Sala's case.
Sala, founder and head of the 70,000 member-strong Tupac Amaru political movement, was detained on Jan. 16 in the province of Jujuy on allegations of inciting violence and turmoil. She had been participating in a month-long protest against Morales before her arrest.
She was cleared from these charges and a judge ordered her released, but before she walked out of prison new orders were issued for her to remain in jail on allegations of irregular management of funds earmarked for low-income housing construction.
High-profile activists including Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo leader Estela de Carlotto and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel have declared Sala a political prisoner. Opposition lawmakers have called the arrest arbitrary and illegal.
Sala is a well-known activist in Argentina and a representative in the South American trade bloc Mercosur Parliament, known as Parlasur. She has gone on hunger strike to protest her detention.
WATCH: Hundreds in Argentina Demonstrate in Support of Jailed Leader Milagro Sala