from Weekly News Update on the Americas


On Feb. 6 some 4,000 oil workers and supporters demonstrated outside the municipal police station in Las Heras–a town of 10,000 people in the southern Argentine province of Santa Cruz–to demand the release of arrested oil union leader Mario Navarro. A member of the leftist workers’ organization Polo Obrero who led an opposition tendency within the Union of Oil and Gas Workers, Navarro was arrested on a warrant on Feb. 5 as he left a radio station after being interviewed. While the workers demonstrated, the court was preparing to release Navarro on his own recognizance. Then shots rang out, police agent Jose Sayago was killed by a bullet, and police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters. Another 14 police agents were allegedly injured. Polo Obrero said at least 15 demonstrators had to be hospitalized. Oil union activist Omar Latini told Radio Continental of Buenos Aires that “the shootout was from both sides” and “18 demonstrators were wounded by bullets.” Navarro was subsequently released by the court.

Santa Cruz governor Sergio Acevedo claimed that a commando of oil workers had entered the police station to try to free Navarro and fired the shots that killed Sayago; the workers say the shots were fired by “infiltrators paid by REPSOL,” referring to the Spanish-Argentine oil company Repsol-YPF. Council member Roxana Totino of the Front for Victory said she was at the door of the court building during the protest and didn’t see any demonstrators with weapons.

The national government responded to the incident by sending 300 federal agents to the area, and Interior Minister Anibal Fernandez announced the creation of a “crisis committee” to help seek a solution. In Buenos Aires on Feb. 7, members of human rights groups and social organizations marched to the Santa Cruz House to support the oil workers. President Nestor Kirchner is from Santa Cruz and governed the province for three consecutive terms before winning the presidency in 2003. (, Feb. 7; La Jornada, Mexico, Feb. 8 from AFP)

On Feb. 11, the oil workers in Las Heras reached a preliminary accord with the government and agreed to lift a blockade they had maintained on Route 43 since Jan. 23. (Agencia NOVA, Feb. 11)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 12


On Jan. 28 some 150 Mapuche indigenous people from throughout the western Argentine province of Neuquen demonstrated at the offices of the Neuquen Ruling Council in the provincial capital to demand the recognition of indigenous communities in reforms to the provincial constitution. Police responded by attacking the protesters with tear gas. (Resumen Latinoamericano, Jan. 29)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 5


On Feb. 23, Argentine attorney Tomas Ojea Quintana brought two lawsuits against the US-based Ford Motor Company and its Argentine affiliate on behalf of Pedro Norberto Troiani and other former union delegates, accusing the company of collaborating in the abduction of union activists at Ford’s facilities in General Pacheco, Buenos Aires province, during Argentina’s military dictatorship (1976-1983).

In 1976 security forces abducted Troiani and 23 other delegates of the union’s internal commission at the Ford plant and detained and tortured them in an improvised detention center set up on a sports field on the Ford plant grounds. “There they put hoods over our heads, they beat us, we suffered simulated executions by firing squad and we were tortured,” said Troiani. “Some were tortured with the electric cattle prod, others were forced to urinate and defecate in their shoes.” The delegates were transferred to other detention centers and held incommunicado for nearly a year; two of them remain disappeared.

A criminal suit, filed in Federal Court 3, seeks the arrest and questioning of the former president of Ford Argentina, Chilean citizen Nicolas Enrique Courard; the former Ford Group manager, Austrian citizen Pedro Muller; industrial relations manager Guillermo Galarraga; former security chief and former military officer Hector Francisco Sibilla; and former military officer Antonio Francisco Molinari. A civil suit, filed in Civil Court #35, seeks economic reparations and other measures such as a public apology and a monument on Ford grounds at the site where the detention center was located.

The delegates and other abducted Ford workers said the Ford executives had a close relationship with military officers; they said their captors identified them using the photographs on their company ID cards and gained access to other records from Ford’s personnel office. The company is accused of using the abductions to block resistance to layoffs, production line speedups and other unpopular labor measures. More than 5,000 people worked at the Ford plant in General Pacheco, 40 kilometers north of the capital. The factory produced the olive green Ford Falcon automobiles and F100 pickup trucks used by security forces for abductions.

Ojea and US citizen Paul Hoffman, former president of Amnesty International, brought a similar lawsuit against Ford in US federal court in Los Angeles in January 2004. Family members of Argentine disappearance victims have also brought similar suits against German automaker Mercedes Benz in German, Argentine and US courts. A US suit was filed against DaimlerChrysler by attorneys Daniel Kovalik and Terry Collingsworth on Jan. 14, 2004, in a federal court in North Carolina. A German court dismissed a similar suit against Mercedes Benz on Dec. 7, 2003.

Between 1976 and 1977, 18 workers at Mercedes Benz’s Argentine affiliate were abducted; 15 of them remain disappeared. Parent company Daimler-Benz, which merged with the US firm Chrysler in 1998, denied accusations it was an accomplice in the government’s abduction, torture and murder of unionists. But a 2003 report showed the company had endangered at least one employee by identifying him as a leftist activist, information which got into the hands of the military. (La Jornada, , Feb. 24, 26, 27; Pagina 12, Buenos Aires, Feb. 24; AP, Feb. 23; Diario Judicial, Argentina, Feb. 23)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 26


Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #118


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, March 1, 2006 Reprinting permissible with attribution