Trade union leaders on trial

Wednesday, October 16, 1996

By Francisco T. Sobrino

BUENOS AIRES — In some provinces, the economic and social deterioration of life has pushed workers to resist and fight. Carlos Ménem's government has replied with harsh repression. Around the country, there are more than 300 trials pending.

The Panario, Christiansen and Martinez cases are examples. Panario is imprisoned because of events at a rally called by the Committee of the Unemployed on October 2, 1995, in front of the Government House of the province of Neuquen. The protest was against limitation of the subsidy for jobless people in the province and to demand a government plan of work to give jobs to the unemployed.

The rally was violently repressed by a special police body. The crowd of 700 people, finding themselves in the midst of tear gas and blows, tried to find a way out. In the rush they caused damage to doors and windows, and collided with police. Many were women and children, even babies.

Several hours later Horacio Panario, leader of the Committee of the Unemployed, was arrested. Soon after, orders were given to arrest Alcides Christiansen, Hector Etchebaster and Jorge Chiguay, all public figures in the province.

Because of the serious steps taken against Panario and others, a national and international campaign has started against these threats to the right to organise and the right of free expression. The campaign is demanding the freedom of Panario and Christiansen, the annulment of arrest orders against the others and an end to trials and intimidatory actions.