In an effort to boost awareness, Pope Francis wrote a letter of encouragement to the imprisoned indigenous activist and lawmaker Milagro Sala, who was sent to one of Argentina’s prisons for preventative detention over a year ago on a collection of accusations largely recognized as unsubstantiated.
Sala was arrested on Jan. 16, 2016 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. Political authorities of Jujuy accused Sala of embezzlement and alleged she used "authoritarian and violent methods" while running community initiatives and leading social protests.
Earlier this month Sala said that she and other inmates have been tortured and threatened to death in prison.
An Argentine by birth, the pope has been a great advocate for a vareity of social causes and felt particularly strong in regards to this case. The handwritten letter is addressed to the Seṅorita Sala and in it Pope Francis says, "I have been informed of some things and I understand your pain and your suffering,” and that he understands "the time she is going through."
Despite calls for her release from every corner of the world, Argentine officials have remained undeterred and have made no moves to release the prisoner.
The pope’s letter comes just as the Inter-American Human Rights Commision meets in Buenos Aires to discuss Sala's case. Amnesty International as well as the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated more than once that Sala is being held unjustly and called for the government release the her. In March, after receiving news of three additional charges, she suffered a mental breakdown and attempted to stab herself with a pair of scissors.