Police brutality is on the rise in Argentina’s province of Jujuy, home to the so-called first political prisoner of President Mauricio Macri’s government, as reports of violent intimidation, torture and arbitrary arrests of local activists at the hands of security forces increasingly emerge from the northwest province, the Buenos Aires Herald reported Tuesday.
In one of the latest examples of dubious law enforcement conduct, a man accused police of illegally arresting him early Sunday morning. Jose Martinez told the local Jujuy daily El Tribuno that officers detained him with a shotgun to his back, tossed him in the vehicle “like a rug,” and treated him “like a criminal” despite his not having done anything to provoke the arrest.
Martinez told El Tribuno that the arrest happened “out of nowhere,” adding that he never expected the police to act in such a way.
According to reports cited by Buenos Aires Herald, the violent incident is not an outlier. Reports of police violence have been on the rise in the province since Macri ally Gerardo Morales was elected governor of Jujuy last December.
In an early sign of increased criminalization of social protest in the province, Indigenous leader and dissident politician Milagro Sala was arrested on Jan. 16 over accusations of inciting violence after she took part in a month-long sit-in against Morales, who ordered her detention.
Sala remains behind bars as investigations into several charges continue, including allegations of corruption and mismanagement of public funds that only emerged two weeks after her arrest when she was cleared of initial charges. Jujuy’s chief prosecutor, Mariano Miranda, argued in an interview with Buenos Aires Herald earlier this month that Sala’s detention is not arbitrary, but many prominent human rights defenders have characterized her as a political prisoner and symbol of the systematic harassment under Morales.
In the six months since Sala’s arrest, “an increasing number of activists have alleged they are being followed, intimidated and arrested by Jujuy’s security forces,” according to Buenos Aires Herald. Other members of Sala’s Tupac Amaru organization have been among those who appear to be targeted.
The Argentine Centre for Legal and Social Studies warned in a new annual report earlier this month of a troubling new trend toward an apparent state policy of human rights abuses and criminalization. In a discussion of the findings reported by the Jujuy digital newspaper El Submarino, a union leader raised alarm about systematic violence and intimidation in Jujuy, particularly against the working class organized members of Sala’s movement.
According to the center, activists in Jujuy are increasingly afraid of being jailed on false charges out of political revenge for their activism.