Statement demanding the acquittal of César Arakaki and Daniel Ruiz

César Arakaki y Daniel Ruiz

On November 7th, 2021, the First Federal Criminal Court of the City of Buenos Aires, presided by judge José Feliciano Ríos sentenced César Arakaki, a member of the Partido Obrero, and Daniel Ruiz, a member of the PSTU, to three years and six months and and three years in effective prison respectively for participating in the protest that took place on December the 18th, 2017 together with a mass of three hundred thousand people that took to the streets near the National Congress.On that occasion the Cambiemos government passed a law modifying the formula by which retirement pensions are calculated, stealing a hundred billion pesos from the pension funds, which at the time were equivalent to 5.3 billion dollars. They were both sentenced on the charges of battery, public intimidation and aggravated assault against a public authority perpetrated by more than two people.

The charge of public intimidation is an example of a criminal charge often used by governments against popular demonstrations, with the objective of curtailing the people’s right to protest and to raise the penalties assigned to those convicted.

That day, the government used police repression to try to take away the people’s right to protest. First, on the 14h , during the first session that discussed the law, they repressed demonstrators fiercely. Then, on the 18th, when police attacks transformed a pacific protest into a mass resistance against the attempt to forbid the demonstration from remaining in the Square of Two Congresses.

Once the law was passed in Congress (with the votes of Cambiemos and peronism), the government of Mauricio Macri mounted operations through hegemonic media, in which policial militants that participated in the protest were demonized. Accusations centered on two left-wing militants (from Partido Obrero and PSTU), accusing them of the serious injuries received by a police officer named Escobar who was hit with a rock to the head.

During the trial, multiple videos showed that César Arakaki was completely innocent of any action that could have led to Escobar’s injuries and that, in addition to that, both Judge Torres and the District Attorney’s office had access from the first moment of those videos that prove César’s innocence. This small triumph of the defense prompted officer Escobar to desist as a plaintiff,which left César Arakaki’s accusation entirely in the prosecutor’s hands.

Later on, the trial went from a public oral hearing to a zoom conference, and then turned into a hybrid: witnesses testified in person  to the court and the parts remained on the  zoom conference; these changes affected the defendant’s right to a defense and the public character and awareness of the proceedings.

Both César Arakaki and Daniel Ruiz were imprisoned during the investigation leading up to the trial and then released. The allegations against them are meant to set an example regarding the criminalization of social movements, and particularly the participation of political militants in them.

Thousands of human rights and political, civil and social organization’s leaders have already declared themselves for the absolution of César Arakaki and Daniel Ruiz. Amongst them are Norita Cortiñas and Elia Espen, members of Madres de Plaza de Mayo. The last hearing will be on the 13th of April, and in some days afterwards, the final sentence will be announced.

To show your support for the acquittal of César Arakaki and Daniel Ruiz, send your petitions to the Federal Criminal Appeals Court at Cámara Federal de Casación Penal, Comodoro Py 2002, 1º Piso (C1104BEN) Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina, or by email to [email protected] and [email protected] .

(Letterhead) Federal Criminal Appeals Court

We declare ourselves for the acquittal of César Arakaki and Daniel Ruiz, who have been sentenced for participating in the mobilization that took place on December the 18th of 2017, against the vile pensions reform voted that same day in Congress. It is alarming that the state prosecutor Juan García Elorrio is asking for an effective prison sentence, when the plaintiff in the trial recused himself because of the inconsistencies in the accusation, an accusation that only the State Attorney’s Office is supporting. 

The massive protests that took place in December of 2017, were the reaction to a law that confiscated from the pension funds. They put a stop to the government’s attempt to apply a labor reform, spearheaded at that moment by Mauricio Macri. Today, defending pensions and labor rights is still a crucial concern for the Argentinian people. 

The whole trial against Arakaki and Ruiz is meant to condition new social protests. A sentence like this represents a step back in democratic liberties in the country and it would contrast deeply with the impunity enjoyed continuously by those who commit crimes against the people. We call to support the cause for absolution and we stand with the demonstrations that will be held with the end of the trial.