FORA is calling for an international day of protest for the oil workers of Las Heras on March 24.
The Regional Workers´ Federation of Argentina is committed to the cause of the workers of Las Heras and we have been making different solidarity actions. We would like all the Sections of the IWA to mobilize and make protests at government offices of Argentina (Embassies, Consulates...) on March 24, (a day which in our country commemorates another year of the last military dictatorship), with the aim of freeing the oil workers of Las Heras.
2006: The oil workers, some of them outsourced, protest against a tax on their earnings, for entrance to the plant and to enter into the collective agreement of the Oil Workers Unions (which would mean a raise in salary). After 20 days of strike, in an act of provocation by the Governor of the province of Santa Cruz, the spokesperson of the workers was detained while speaking on the radio. During the actions in his defense, a police office, Jorge Sayago died.
2007-2008: A hunt follows, looked for the guilty party. People are arrested and tortured. Curfews and the militarization of the town by the Gendarmes. With the statements of those detained in their homes, beaten and pressured, “The Cause” arms itself: the uncle of Sayago, declares that those sitting on the bench, facing charges, are just scapegoats. One of the defense lawyers, Claudia Ferrero, admitted that “there is no concrete evidence), and those that were, were based by the Investigative Brigade of Santa Cruz on torture, terrorizing the whole population and getting false testimony through threats and persecutions.
2009: Militarization and persecution continues in the town of Las Heras. The workers have already been detained for 3 years, in conditions of physical and psychological torture.
2013: The request for life imprisonment of 6 of the accused and 18 years for the rest. The Prosecutor Candia, admits the torture and the illegal mistreatment. At the same time he declares “PUTTING A BAG OVER THE WITNESSES HEAD AND SLAPPING HIM IS NOT THE SAME AS TELLING HIM WHAT TO SAY”. The court turns a deaf ear to the information about torture and leaves the defendants to “reflect and reconsider”.
December 2013: four oil workers are convicted for life, CORTEZ, ROSALES, PADILLA Y GONZALES and another 6 workers to 5 years in prison. This is one of the greatest attacks against workers who were fighting for their rights, almost without precedence in constitutional governments, with the goal of punishing the workers' struggle.
2013-2014: Various sectors of the workers' movement mobilize demanding the amnesty of the condemned oil workers of Las Heras. With every month, more and more solidarity actions take place. In turn, the national government orders the repression and breaking of all the pickets and demonstrations and there are many injured and arrested.
The workers of the Regional Workers' Federation of Argentina are committed to the cause of the workers of Las Heras, and because of this have been making different solidarity actions. We ask the IWA to make actions as well, not only to join forces for the amnesty of the oil workers, but because a conviction of this magnitude in Argentina is a dangerous precedent for workers' organization.
STATEMENT OF FORA-AIT
On Decemeber 12, 2013, the Santa Cruz Judiciary sentences four oil workers - Ramón Cortéz, José Rosales, Franco Padilla y Hugo González – to life imprisonment and another 6 to 5 years in prison for the alleged aggravated coercion, injury and murder of a police officer.
The only thing that was proven in the court was the torture which those sentenced suffered, in order to extort incriminating statements, acts which were justified by the Prosecutor which downplayed the torture.
In 2006, the oil workers of Las Heras demanded to be included in the union agreement in the oil sector which they worked in, not in the UOCRA, and thus to be included in a collective agreement with better pay scales and working conditions, demanding a raise in their non-taxable income.
After 20 days of the workers' mobilization, the Judiciary ordered the detention of various workers. The oil workers reacted by demonstrating on City Hall to demand their release and they were brutally repressed. In confusing circumstances, a police office, Jorge Sayago, died. 17 workers (and different neighbours) were arrested and accused of misdeeds and murder, with the Gendarmes installing a climate of terror in the population.
Criminalizing of the demands of the workers is nothing new.
They also prosecuted workers during a repression in the Borda Hospital – while the Macri functionaries were acquitted – and the continue to persecute the workers in struggle like the delegates from the Emfer, Lear and Kraft companies, in the northern zone of Greater Buenos Aires, which is militarized with the gendarmes. A worker of the line 60 was sentenced to 7 months in prison only for demanding his reinstatement. We also demand his release.
The Argentine Regional Workers' Federation (FORA-AIT) expresses is strongest condemnation for the sentences received by those who fight injustice, which the oil companies and the Argentine state want to bury alive. Our workers' federation extends its most profound solidarity with the oil workers of Las Heras and encourage more workers to join the campaign for their freedom.
So that solidarity is not only a written word and ideas are not lost behind bars, workers should go on the streets with all our strength in order that the condemned comrades be returned to their homes.