Argentinian minister quits in protest over detention of indigenous leaders
By Michael Robinson
26 July 2016
A high-level minister in Argentina resigned Thursday following an outcry over the detention of a group of prominent indigenous leaders in the city of Corrientes, where he was responsible for setting up a commission investigating “the violent deaths of women and children” in the province of Misiones.
The resignation of the minister for indigenous development, Alberto Bonisola Larrea, came in protest over the government’s refusal to release the leaders, the leaders of the Federacion Nacional Indigena, from detention. The leaders have been behind bars since June 26 in an illegal detention center in Corrientes.
“The government’s repression of the FGI is a grave violation of human rights,” the minister said in televised appearances over the weekend. “The government has no legal right to imprison the FGI leaders.”
The arrests of the FGI leaders followed the mass disappearance of 43 people in the northwestern Misiones province in late May. In response, the province’s governor, Ernesto Martinez, called for a week-long general strike on June 26, which was met by street protests from indigenous activists on social media that quickly spread.
The protest in Corrientes, named after the province, resulted in the seizure of a radio station by police, as well as the detention of the indigenous leaders, and the shutdown of the provincial government.
During the protest, police arrested the governor of Misiones, Ernesto Martinez. Days later, Martinez admitted that the detention was without legal basis, noting that the FGI leaders had not been served with an arrest warrant.
Martinez also reportedly claimed that he was only taking action against the FGI leaders because his own indigenous police force had been criticized “for being non-violent.” On June 28, Martinez announced that the state would not honor the agreement with the FGI leaders, and he refused to comply with the government’s demands that he release the leaders.
The following day in Corrientes, a judge issued