Early in the morning on Thursday November 22, community members from different neighborhoods of the La Matanza municipality in the outskirts of Buenos Aires attempted to occupy a piece of state land which has been subject of dispute. Witnesses state that the police of the province of Buenos Aires attacked the community members and fired live bullets at them. In the midst of the repression, Rodolfo “Ronald” Orellana was shot twice and died before reaching the hospital. It was also reported that after the police opened fire on the community, they arrested four of their comrades who have yet to be released.
Rodolfo “Ronald” Orellana was a member of Free Organizations of the People (OLP) which is part of the Confederation of Workers of the People’s Economy (CTEP). Orellana was from the neighborhood Villa Celina where he lived with his 6 children. He worked in the textile factory of the organization and also helped in many other aspects of the organization like with construction and the community cafeterias.
Diego Markus, a leader of OLP-CTEP in La Matanza, explained about the context of the land occupation “A rumor was spread in the neighborhood that they were occupying some land, and that there was an opportunity to have a house there. People began to group together to go there spontaneously but the police was already there. 4 members of the police were there with weapons, that were taunting, insulting, and saying how they would arrange things with money. Then the special unit arrived, around 30, 40, a ton of police, with rubber bullets and everything and these police had official issued guns, a blond woman was the one who fired. She took out the gun, and at first, shot at the ground and then began to shoot at point-blank range, and at whatever height. People were running, with all of the mud people were falling down. There were women, children. Comrade Ronald fell to the ground and the woman shot him right there. She shot him twice.”
In a statement released by the OLP-CTEP, they denounce “While in the neighborhoods the comrades fight against the policies of hunger of this government, the police of [Argentine president Mauricio] Macri and [Minister of Security Patricia] Bullrich are dedicated to assassinating our comrades. However, the death of Ronald will not remain in impunity. We call on the solidarity of all the organizations and to be in a state of alert in the face of any updates or mobilization.”
The assassination of Orellana must be contextualized. He was assassinated while him and other community members were trying to occupy land in order to have dignified housing. Since Argentine President Mauricio Macri assumed office in 2015, the most vulnerable social and economic classes in Argentina have suffered the worst of Macri’s heavy cuts to the public sector, social programs and employment programs. This crisis has only gotten worse with the 50% devaluation of the Argentine peso this year and the price increases in gas, electricity, water and basic household products. Working class people across Argentina are struggling to eat and survive. According to Markus people from the neighborhoods Celina, Ciudad Evita and Tapiales in La Matanza organized to occupy the land for the opportunity to have a house because most are forced to rent very small rooms.
Belén Rosas who worked with Orellana stated “We do not know exactly what made our comrades join the attempted land occupation. What we do know are the conditions that bring people to the point of risking their lives in order to gain a space to have their own housing.
Juan Grabois one of the leaders of the CTEP stated in twitter “Rodolfo Orellana, of the OLP-CTEP, was shot by the police in a land conflict in Celina. People are desperate across the country, without work, without homes, they cannot rent and eat at the same time. The government only increases the cruelty.”