Social and political organizations in Argentina demanded Monday the release of Indigenous leader Milagro Sala, who has been imprisoned for a year, as groups held protests across the country in support of the prominent activist.
"They can attack Milagro Sala and the grassroots organization of Tupac Amaru, but they can never rip apart our hearts who have their convictions intact that the only way out is to fight for a fairer Argentina," Sala told Tiempo Argentina Sunday.
Sala said her arrest was a sign of "criminalization of protest" under the government of Mauricio Macri, and praised the former Kirchner leftist administrations in the country.
"I see an Argentina in decline for its current unemployment policy, debt, economic adjustment and repression," said Sala. "We are seeing the opposite of the past 12 years where we had recovered the joy."
Milagro Sala gestures during her trial in Jujuy.
Supporters of Milagro Sala protest in Buenos Aires.
A sign reads "Free Milagro" during a protest.
Sala was arrested on Jan. 16, 2016 in Jujuy, after staging a month-long sit-in against the local government’s neoliberal policies under Jujuy governor Gerardo Morales, an ally of President Mauricio Macri.
She faced charges of inciting crime and turmoil, which were later dropped. Before she could be released, a new warrant was handed down for charges of illicit association, fraud and extortion.
As leader of Tupa Amaru, an organization with some 70,000 members, Sala runs social housing and other community-led projects and has been a key player in organizing the resistance against Macri’s policies.
"My imprisonment is so long, that it's none other than the criminalization of protest and this is serious in an Argentina where a lot of blood was shed to recover democracy, and Argentines should remember it", said Sala.
The United Nations and the Organization of American States requested last year that Macri government immediately release Sala. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also said there were a number of "consecutive accusations" against Sala, which were being used in order to detain her indefinitely.
Sala is also a representative in Parlasur, the parliament of the South America subcontinental bloc Mercosur.