Argentinians demand safe return of Facundo Astudillo

22-year-old Facundo Astudillio Castro has been missing since April 30 and evidence points to involvement of Buenos Aires police in his disappearance

July 31, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Hundreds of people mobilized in parts of the Buenos Aires province demanding the safe return of 22-year-old Facundo Astudillo Castro on July 30. Photo: Resumen Latinoamericano

On July 30, three months after the disappearance of 22-year-old Facundo Astudillio Castro, Argentine social movements, political parties and human rights organizations mobilized in different cities of the Buenos Aires province. In the capital city Buenos Aires, members of the Encounter Memory, Truth and Justice Movement (EMVJ) carried out a march from the National Congress to the House of Buenos Aires Province, the district government’s office, demanding the safe return of Facundo.

Demonstrations were also held in the cities of La Plata, Pedro Luro and Carmen de Patagones, among others. The protesters raised slogans such as “where is Facundo?”, “safe return of Facundo”, “the state is responsible”, etc. They also raised slogans against the Minister of Security of the Buenos Aires province, Sergio Berni.

Facundo has been missing since April 30, the day he left from his home in Pedro Luro city for his girlfriend’s house in Bahía Blanca city. He never arrived to her house. Witnesses claim to have seen Facundo being arrested by the Buenos Aires police and taken in a police patrol car. There is photo evidence also, in which Facundo is seen from behind, arrested by two officers, in the town of Mayor Buratovich. However, there are contradictions in the statements of the police officers involved, among other irregularities, which indicate that Facundo’s disappearance can be a possible case of institutional violence and enforced disappearance.

The officers, who arrested Facundo for violating the quarantine measures, said that they let him go. After the investigation was taken over by the federal justice system, during an interrogation, one of the officers at the Mayor Buratovich police station said that at the time when Facundo was picked up by the police according to the witnesses, he had actually seen Facundo in the neighboring town, Teniente Origone. Another officer claimed to have seen Facundo getting on a bus to Bahía Blanca around the same time.

In addition, Cristina Castro, Facundo’s mother, and her neighbors, the primary witnesses denounced that they tried to report his disappearance and testify about the incident at a nearby police station three times, but the officers refused to take their statements and turned them away, saying Facundo was walking around the country.

Three months after his disappearance, the judicial investigation is far from clarifying what happened to Facundo. The federal justice still does not have technical data on the location of the involved patrol car and the police officers’ cell phones.

Cristina Castro and the organizations supporting the case are pushing for the removal of the prosecutor Santiago Ulpiano Martínez from the case, who has allegedly been blocking the investigation.

Facundo’s family and the Argentine society fears that his missing case will turn out to be a case of trigger-happy use of firearms, in which security forces shoot people unprovoked.

In the beginning of the month, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations Organization (UN) ordered the Argentine state to take “urgent actions” in Facundo’s disappearance case and asked the government to carry out an independent investigation and provide protection to the witnesses whose testimonies strengthen the hypothesis of police responsibility.

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