Buenos Aires Times

argentina ARA SAN JUAN

ARA San Juan relatives contradict officials: 'Submarine could be resurfaced'

Both the Defence Ministry and the judge presiding over the case have so far ruled out any immediate attempts to resurface the submarine from its final resting place, 907 metres below sea level.

Monday 19 November, 2018
Relatives of crew members of the ARA San Juan submarine demonstrate outside the Navy Base in Mar del Plata.
Relatives of crew members of the ARA San Juan submarine demonstrate outside the Navy Base in Mar del Plata. Foto:Alfonsina Tain / AFP

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The relatives of the 44 naval officers who went missing on the ARA San Juan remain hopeful the vessel could be resurfaced.

US firm Ocean Infinity discovered the remains of the two-tonne vessel in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, after a group of relatives insisted that the mission continue north of an earlier search area.

However, both the Defence Ministry and the court presiding over the case have so far played down the chances of attempting to resurface the submarine from its final resting place, 907 metres below sea level.

"There are ways to surface it. We believe it is impossible to resurface it as one piece, but perhaps it could be done in pieces," the mother of submariner Gabriel Alfaro Rodríguez, Luisa Rodríguez, said.

She and other relatives protested this weekend against the Mauricio Macri government at the Mar del Plata naval base.

"I didn't even listen to [President] Macri. I don't care about mourning. I will mourn when I know the truth about what happened to [those on the] submarine," Rodríguez said, following Macri's announcement of three days of official mourning.

Relatives say the government dragged its feet when it came to investing money and time into search and rescue efforts.

"It's an issue of money. Our children gave their lives to protect our seas," Luis Niz, father of missing naval officer Luis Niz, said.

Niz was one of the relatives who had led a 52-day protest camp in Playa de Mayo this past winter, where relatives demanded the Macri administration hire a private firm to continue with the search effort.

For her part, María Victoria Morales – who lost her son Luis Esteban García on the ARA San Juan – said "it is difficult but it is not impossible to resurface" the vessel. She did not attend the protest but said she shared the concerns of other relatives.

Few among the loved ones of the 44 officers believe the remains of the vessel should be left untouched, 900 meters below sea level.

"My brother's place is the sea," Lourdes Meilán, who lost her brother David, said.

AGUAD TO ADDRESS CONGRESS

Defence Minister Oscar Aguad will address a Congressional committee on December 4. His last appearance was on April 16, five months after the vessel's disappearance.

At a press conference on Saturday, Aguad said Argentina "does not have the means" to resurface the submarine.

For her part, the federal judge presiding over the investigation, Marta Yáñez, told reporters she would assess the "viability" of a resurfacing effort but indicated it would unlikely take place.

Three photos of the vessel's remains were published in the media over the weekend in an effort to confirm the discovery. Relatives of the victims subsequently requested a total freeze on the publication of images.

Ocean Infinity has reportedly taken around 67,000 photographs of the ARA San Juan. The data has been handed over to Judge Yáñez's Caleta Oliva court and to the Armed Forces.

-TIMES

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