Argentine social movements denounce illegal raids by government

Mass organizations in Argentina denounced the police raids as political persecution by the right-wing government and said they were in an attempt to crush the opposition to Milei’s anti-people policies

May 15, 2024 by Peoples Dispatch
Social movement leaders hold press conference to reject the police raids on May 13. Photo: La Izquierda Diario

In the early hours of the morning on May 13, the Argentine police raided the homes of leaders of the Worker’s Pole, the Front of Organizations in Struggle (FOL), Barrios de Pie, and the Evita Movement. According to the organizations, federal police officers participated in the violent raids, the cell phones of the leaders were also seized, and 27 free soup kitchens run by the movement organizations were also raided.

In a press conference in front of the National Congress on the same day, progressive movements came together to denounce the raids and repression they have faced under the far-right government of Javier Milei. Organizations present at the conference included FOL, the Worker’s Pole, Barrios de Pie, Union of Workers of the Popular Economy (UTEP), Coordinating Committee for Social Change, and Territorial Liberation Movement (MTL).

Also present were national and city deputies of the Left Unity Front such as Christian Castillo and Romina del Plá, Celeste Fierro and Juan Carlos Giordano and Hugo “Cachorro” Godoy of the Autonomous Argentinean Workers’ Central (CTA Autónoma), among others.

At the press conference, the lawyers of the organizations denounced the illegal searches, which were carried out at night, forbidden under Argentine law. They also pointed out that there were “threats, intimidating acts, raids without witnesses,” with state forces “taking things they were not supposed to take.”

The raid took place as part of a case being investigated by the Federal Justice around alleged extortion by social movement leaders and activists of social plan beneficiaries to participate in demonstrations against the measures of the current government of Javier Milei.

The evidence to this claim was provided by the Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich, who alleges that the Ministry received 900 anonymous complaints through a telephone line. However, after a revision by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, only 45 remained of the 900, and of these, only seven people agreed to testify. This “evidence” gave the basis to the raid on the organizations, the tapping of phone lines of different leaders, and the seizure of their devices, granted by the Federal Chamber of Buenos Aires following an initial denial by federal Judge Julián Ercolini.

The social organizations warn that such raids are intended to intimidate the movements so that they do not continue with their work.

“It was a totally excessive operation, with unidentified cars, with intelligence agents, where they made a show of recording and filming us. Clearly, they had no evidence, they came to raid us to see what was going on, and their main objective was to show us the power they have, to show us that they are coming to intimidate us, that what they want is for the social organizations to not continue doing what we do: organizing ourselves, fighting, carrying out our community network spaces, our productive spaces, our work spaces. And they are not going to defeat us,” expressed Charly Fernandez of FOL. The court order also calls for the arrest of leaders.

Fernández, who himself was targeted in a raid on his own home, as were several of his colleagues, pointed out that “If they touch one of us, they touch us all. And we are going to give our lives for everything we have built and for those children in the neighborhoods.”

“We were raided, different social organizations, many activists in our private homes, in our organizations’ premises, in our work spaces, in our community kitchens,” Fernández said. “In the case of my family, they broke our door, they threw me to the floor, they pointed guns at us, all during the night, when my children were sleeping. They were looking for electronic devices, cell phones and computers.”

According to Fernández, “the arguments put forward by the raid [are] basically that the crime was to be part of an organization, because it appeared that we were giving vouchers to those of us who have been part of cooperatives and civil associations for more than 20 years.” These organizations “have promoted productive enterprises, services and work for the most disadvantaged sectors of our working class.”

Eduardo Beliboni, from the Worker’s Pole, pointed out that “the picketers’ movement has been fighting against the Government since December 20. They have initiated a case based on those mobilizations. Almost all the raids were illegal.”

He also denounced that “the central office of the Worker’s Pole was raided and the first thing the police did was to turn off the security cameras.”

The organizations affirmed that they stand united in rejecting and condemning this attack by the national government, supported by the big media companies. They allege that the raids and the case against them seek to sweep away the organizations and facilitate the advance of drug trafficking groups in the neighborhoods. The organizations warn that if they disappear their place will be taken by drug traffickers.