A year and five months ago the indigenous leader of the Tupac Amaru neighborhood association, Milagro Sala, was arrested at her home in Argentina for alleged “incitement to commit crimes and public disturbance.”
The activist led a month-long sit-in against the policies brought in by Governor Gerardo Morales in Jujuy – a province home to 10% of the Tupac Amaru organization’s members. These transformations, according to teleSUR, would risk social organizations like Tupac Amaru losing their legal status and social benefits.
However, as a member of the Mercosur parliament, Parlasur, Sala has immunity from arrest, making her detention illegal.
Months after her arrest, Sala received a three-year suspended prison sentence. She was charged with “aggravated damage” to a public official, due to an alleged aggression against Morales, at that time a senator. This was the first of a series of charges against her, including illicit association, fraud, and extortion, which remain under investigation.
In Argentina and various parts of Latin America, many have raised their voices to demand the indigenous leader’s release. The Argentine Prosecutor General’s Office of Institutional Violence (Procuvin) filed a report denouncing the illegal arrest of Sala, and requested the beginning of criminal proceedings against the judges who participated in the case.
International organizations have joined this call; in April the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) submitted a report after visiting several prisons in Argentina in which it determined that the detention of Milagro Sala was arbitrary and illegal, and demanded the release of the indigenous leader.
Milagro Sala was born in Argentina on February 20, 1964, but was abandoned in front of a hospital and later adopted by a middle-class family. However, she ran away from the family home at the age of 14, on discovering that this was not her biological family.
Years later she secured work with the Association of State Workers (ATE), part of the Argentine Workers’ Central Union (CTA).
In 1999, the Tupac Amaru association was founded in the region of San Salvador de Jujuy, an organization that identifies with the figures of Ernesto Che Guevara and Evita Perón, and cites the government of Bolivian President Evo Morales as its political model. From its beginnings, the organization has set out to fight for the rights of minorities (women, indigenous, and the LGBTI community).
The movement led by Sala began organizing and coordinating milk supplies for the poorest children in the area, and over time has built educational buildings, homes, health centers and created jobs.
Through the same organization, Milagro Sala founded the Popular Sovereignty Party, which was recognized by the region of Jujuy in 2013, the year in which she was elected as a Parlasur deputy.
Despite her arrest, Sala has not lost hope: “When we leave here we will continue to be active. What (Mauricio) Macri and (Gerardo) Morales do to us does not frighten us, on the contrary, it strengthens us,” she stated.
SOME STATS ABOUT MILAGRO
— Age: 53
— Birthplace: San Salvador de Jujuy, Argentina
— Position: Secretary of the Tupac Amaru Neighborhood Association
— Political affiliation: Popular Sovereignty Party