Argentina: Police abuse against vulnerable groups during lockdown enforcement

On March 19, Argentina announced a public health emergency and set in place one of the strictest lockdowns in the region in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, the lockdown has been relatively successful in containing the contagion. The Government also took a series of measures to ease the economic and social impact of the lockdown. 

In this context, a number of concerning police abuse cases have been reported across the country, some of them targeting protests of vulnerable groups such as  indigenous communities and people deprived of liberty. Violent law enforcement operations towards communities both in the North and in Patagonia have been recurrent in the past, in particular during their protests or demonstrations. 

On May 13, police forcibly dispersed a protest by women of the Wichi community in the Chaco province. The women had blocked a road to protest the arrest of a member of their guard force Washek, a community force tasked with protecting the Wichi land and resources, who had been detained and tortured a few weeks prior. In early June, about 30 members of an indigenous community in Quitilipi blocked a road and demanded the payment of wages. They were repressed by police with rubber bullets and sticks. Video footage captured police firing rubber bullets at a man after he turned his back to them and retreated as ordered by police. 

On April 23, protests took place in several prisons in Buenos Aires province demanding prevention programs to be implemented. The prison guards’ violent response left one person dead (killed by live ammunition) and 40 injured. Inmates in several prisons began a hunger strike, and on April 24 there were violent clashes in a federal prison in Buenos Aires, where the prison guards, using lethal weapons, severely injured two inmates. Police also detained family members of detainees protesting outside of prisons who face charges for resisting authority and violating measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Argentine government announced it was considering releasing some prisoners of at-risk groups to reduce the probability of contagion. This initial announcement was met by protest from some segments of the population, which led the government to backtrack.

Since the beginning of the lockdown, different demonstrations have been organized on social media, carried out in the capital Buenos Aires and in other provinces to protest the lockdown and its economic impact.

Pic: Pablo Cuarterolo/Perfil
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