[Argentina] Thirteen Months in Jail for Protesting Against the Social Security Reform

Daniel Ruiz was freed after being detained for protesting, in December 2017, against the Social Security Reform. “No one will give me back the almost thirteen months that I was in jail,” he states, and adds: “We will show them, during the trial, that this process was full of despotism.”
By Adriana Meyer, Página 121
It was an “express-freed”. Judges signed it at 6 pm and at 7 pm the guards were opening the doors of Marcos Paz prison. His comrades did not arrive in time, so the former political prisoner took the bus. “I’m adapting to freedom little by little. Confinement intimidates you, but I am regaining trust. It’s shocking to see the price increase… it’s better to remain inside!”, Daniel Ruiz jokes around, in a dialogue with Página 12.
After almost 13 months detained in the Marcos Paz prison, accused of alleged injuries to a cop during the repression on December 2017, in the demonstration against the Social Security Reform, this oil worker and militant of the PSTU (Socialist Workers’ Party – Unified) states that his prison was political, “a message to the workers’ struggle, to the constant demands of several workers and popular segments, and even middles sectors.”
If I look back, this attempt failed. My prison did not generate the fear-effect they aimed. In this global fight of the government and Patricia Bullrich2 and her Chocobar3 doctrine, they lost in the polls, in the economy and in the society, which rejects this way of ruling.” Ruiz highlights that 57% of prisoners have no sentence, and he reaffirms his commitment to continue the fight for better living conditions in jail. He thanks “everyone who helped in the campaign for my freedom, and my party, my family and the International Labor Network which made pressure on 20 Embassies.”
–How were the days in jail?
–First, I was afraid. But I forged ties based on the situation of confinement. The Marcos Paz prison was built 20 years ago. The building conditions are terrible, there is overcrowding, and the repudiation to the government is generating organization. In jail, I used to organize assemblies. That made me feel alive. I thank my fellows. We achieved small victories that were great for us.
-Like which ones?
–To paint the entire block, electrical installations, kitchens and washbasins. Also, the prison yard is now open from 9 to 18, they installed goals to play soccer, and now more than half the prisoners can work (in March, only 8 people worked; now it is 26). They installed furniture in the visiting sector and provided school supplies to finish Elementary School, High School and also for those who went to the University. We always want our freedom. We received the Enforcement Judge three times, as well as the Deputies’ Committee for Prison during Prison Emergency, for our denounces to Human Rights’ organizations. We got them to be more flexible when it comes to our freedom. Organized, we achieve improvements and even freedom itself. Before leaving, we got together in the block and ratified the idea of continuing organized and my commitment of helping them from the outside. And I want to thank the organizations and unions that donated food for the inmates so we did not depend on the Penitentiary Service basket. I was part of something genuine, the inmates’ organization, because we have rights. It’s from there on that we can build a new society.
–In June, you said you were cooking because the food in jail came with serum for inmates in abstinence. Which was the worst moment?
–The first days in jail, until your family can get in touch with you, you have nothing. They take your shelter away. If there is no solidarity in the block, you cannot even make a call. You are completely uncommunicated. Confinement generates situations of violence. I thought it might actually become pretty serious, but I was able to manage it. The Argentine people is a warrior people, so assemblies and collective organization come as natural. We need to salute this tradition. In the worst moments of starvation, we organized popular and picketers’ assemblies. In extreme situations, that fire is still on to show us a clear horizon. The undersigned, signed by everyone in the block, is a very genuine force, to me and to the whole.
–So now the campaign is for your absolution. Why did they free you now?
–On Thursday 10, the court will tell me the conditions of my freedom, the permits and movements I’m allowed to. There is a general political situation of repudiation to this way of ruling. What the government tried to implement four years ago is unbearable, imposing parameters opposite to the Rule of Law. We are all in jail without trial here. The prisoner has to be allowed to prove his/her innocence. In the demonstrations we said NO to the government, and that had a reflection on my situation, because the same prosecutors and judges that a year ago told me I belonged in jail are now calling to review the case. They were not that bad before and they are not that good today: my freedom is a product of the mobilization, a social feeling and the workers’ struggle.
–What is your priority now?
–To recover the lost time with my beloved ones, with my daughter. My family is not militant of the party, and they accompanied me on this. I want to compensate them for this situation. They moved 2000 km away and took days-off work to see me. No one will give me back the almost thirteen months I was in jail, so I want to return to my family and friends the love they gave me. I have to stay here because of the trial, but my people is in Comodoro Rivadavia, and I crave to go back to Floresta, the neighborhood where I was born and where I fought all my life.
–You said you were a hostage to get to Sebatián Romero4, your party comrade, currently fugitive, to appear. Do you still believe that?
–Yes. In fact, Chamber I of the Cassation Court is saying that I was incorrectly detained. So this was clearly a message to force Sebastián Romero to surrender. Today, the government has no strength to impose this type of ruling. We will prove in my trial that the entire process was full of despotism. The Judge Sergio Torres, of Prosecution, and the Court 3, will respond for this.
–How do you see you political and labor future?
–I think there is an inflexion point in the working class, because the results of the PASO5 will probably repeat in the election. They gave a vote of trust to the Fernandez-Fernandez6. But the crisis will continue. In this regard, we have new challenges ahead, and in this frame, without aiming for it (because I never wanted to be a reference,) I am a soldier of the movement. I will give my full support for new generations of workers, young and women to be the vanguard of an alternative to all this. My experience, good or bad, can be useful. I would like to come back to the towers, twelve hours with my coworkers in the oil wells, and also to put an end to the agenda of labor reform in the deposits, which caused so many accidents, contamination and deaths.
–Can prison bring you votes, as you are a candidate by the FIT7, in Chubut?
–In the PASO we got 4%. Now that I am free maybe I can enforce my campaign, but my candidature is to serve the struggles. Today, for example, teachers and parents are picketing in the deposit entrance. The State workers conflict is in its 14 week.
–While you were in jail, Chubut “got on fire…”
–Precisely, it got on fire because in my province the law I manifested against, which is the Social Security Reform, accelerated the anticipated retirements in the oil industry. On the same day the Fiscal Agreement was signed, the Arcioni government took the province to bankruptcy, not to speak about his terrible administration with Das Neves7, and their involvement in corruption scandals. I was demonstrating because this reform affects thousands of people, pensioners, retired, war veterans, and those who receive Universal Allocation.
Translation: Sofia Ballack.
1 – Argentine Newspaper.
2- Ministry of Security.
3- Chocobar Doctrine is the name of a set of policies implemented by Patricia Bullrich to justify trigger-happy license against anyone who characterizes “imminent danger”, as a policy of persecution, criminalization and assassination of activists, strugglers, militants, etc.
4- Sebastián Romero, GM worker and PSTU militant, currently persecuted globally for his participation in the December 2017 mobilization against the Social Security Reform.
5- First term election.
6- Alberto Fernández and Christina Fernández de Kirchner, formula that crushed Macri in the PASO, with over 47% of the votes.
7- Left-Wing and Workers’ Front.
8- Chubut Province governor from 2003 to 2011 (Kirchner Administration) and from 2015 to 2017, when he passed away.

Leave a Reply