On Thursday Argentine President Mauricio Macri officially rejected calls from the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to release Tupac Amaru leader and Parlasur representative Milagro Sala, who was jailed last Jan. 16 in the midst of a protest against a key Macri ally.
Macri’s response came on the same day a judge released Sala’s spouse, Raúl Noro, and two other community leaders who the U.N. working group had also determined were arbitrarily detained. Since the U.N. group issued their report in late October, six leaders of the Tupac Amaru social movement have been released.
Sala, the leader of the 70,000 strong Tupac Amaru social organization, was arrested last January in the midst of a month-long sit-in protest of Jujuy state Governor Gerardo Morales’ attacks on the powerful social movement. The original charge of incitement was soon dropped in favor of accusations of illicit association, fraud, and extortion.
In October, the U.N. group had called for Sala’s release, calling her arrest and detention “arbitrary," noting that one of Sala's accusers admitted their testimony came only after receiving threats and pressure to denounce the acclaimed activist. The U.N. group also noted that for years local authorities have used criminal prosecution and accusations of terrorism to stop Tupac Amaru and Sala’s activism.
Since coming to power last year, Macri has attempted to impose brutal austerity measures throughout the country. Sala, as leader of the Tupac Amaru movement which runs social housing and other community-led projects in the northern and largely Indigenous state of Jujuy, has been a key player in organizing the resistance to Macri’s policies.
Sala’s husband, who had been jailed since July, was accused of embezzlement of funds destined for a social housing project. Marcelo Elías, a lawyer for the housing cooperative run by the Tupac Amarus, said that despite the release of Noro, the judicial process continues. “We do not know how much longer it will extend, but we are convinced that there was no illicit association or fraud of public accounts," said Elias.
Emiliano Villar, a lawyer for the Tupac Amaru, has said that Sala “is being persecuted for embodying a concept and being a symbol for a social class historically excluded from the political and economic system, for being rebellious and organizing and building with others a political force to confront reality.”