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News > Latin America

'We Want Those Bastards Put in Prison:' Families of Argentine Submarine Victims Demand Justice

  • Relatives of the 44 crew members of the found ARA San Juan submarine attend a demonstration outside the Argentine Naval Base in Mar del Plata, Argentina November 17, 2018

    Relatives of the 44 crew members of the found ARA San Juan submarine attend a demonstration outside the Argentine Naval Base in Mar del Plata, Argentina November 17, 2018 | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 November 2018

Family members of the Argentine submarine recently found 900km underwater say they want those responsible for their loss, "put in prison."

Exactly a year after the Argentine submarine ARA San Juan disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean with 44 crew members on board, the government says it has found the vessel some 900km below the water’s surface.

A Year On Argentine ARA San Juan Submarine Found

While the Mauricio Macri administration is saying no technology exists to bring the sub, detected about 600km off Argentina’s eastern coastline, to the surface, family members of the deceased who sank with the ship in November 2017 aren’t accepting this response.

Claudio Rodriguez, brother of head machinist and Chief Petty Officer of the ARA San Juan, Hernan Rodriguez, says he and the relatives of the 44 lost crew members want: “Truth and justice. The search ended. Now we want truth and justice.”

Claudio added sternly: “We want those bastards put in prison," referring to members of the Navy and ministers he feels are responsible for last year’s government neglect that left the 44 missing and now presumed drowned.

“Let the Justice (Supreme Court) investigate ... to see who is guilty. We are not going to slow down.”

Amidst conflicting reports, the Defense Minister Oscar Aguad announced last December that the submarine had likely exploded after its search efforts allegedly found no trace of the underwater craft.

"Now we know that the sub is whole," said Rodriguez to local media, who along with the other families, argue that the government mismanaged the search and rescue effort of the ARA San Juan. “Did they leave them because they knew that oxygen had been exhausted?” questioned Rodriguez.

The Argentine submarine was returning to Mar del Plata from a mission in the southernmost tip of the country when it reported a battery short-circuit caused by water entering the vessel on the morning of Nov.15, 2017. The vessel was ordered back to base but the crew was not heard from again.

“The Minister of Defense even said that he had broken into pieces. How is that?” asks Rodriguez to Pagina 12 media. “The submarine exploded and the cylinder is whole?” as the reports of the found sub now confirm. “That's why they (the guilty) need to be put in prison,” said the brother of the presumed deceased.

Argentina: US$5m Reward to Find Missing San Juan Submarine

While last May Aguad tweeted the government would make every effort to find and “bring their 44 crew members back,” calling it “the commitment we have to the country and the families," the head of defense said on Sunday told the press there was no “feasible” way to bring the vessel to land.

“There is no technical feasibility" to refloat it. Aguad said in a press conference: "There is no technology in the world" that could possibly bring the ship to shore.

"It is not a decision (to not lift the submarine from the ocean floor), it is not possible,” he declared. He said that “rogues” who are saying the vessel can be lifted from the ocean are merely “playing with the pain of the relatives who are still grieving. You can’t play with pain like that." Aguad went on to say the ship rescue doesn’t come down to money, but of capacity. “There is no technical capacity in the world to refloat a mass of more than two thousand tons."

In a five-minute message to the public, President Macri announced that he decreed three days of national mourning to honor the 44 crew members of the ARA San Juan. He said that news of the discovery of the vessel "has produced enormous pain" and called the crew members "heroes (who) chose a profession of risk and they dedicated their lives to taking care of us."

A September 2017 audit of the ARA San Juan by the Navy revealed it was in "unseaworthiness status," months before it was launched and disappeared. 

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