President Mauricio Macri will today meet with relatives of the 44 Navy officers who were on board the ARA San Juan submarine at the time of its disappearance on November 15 last year.
The meeting comes after almost three months of heightening tensions between families and the national government, which relatives accuse of inaction and disinterest as Navy search efforts for the vessel wind down.
“We will ask him to increase the intensity of the search and to stand by the promises that were made to us”, the mother of one of the officer, María Victoria Morales, told La Nación.
Relatives want the government to formalise a contract with a private firm that would take charge of search efforts, while also rewarding other individuals, groups or private or public entities that wish to collaborate in the search.
The Navy begun winding back its efforts late last year and a number of international collaborators have withdrawn.
The ARA San Juan went missing on November 15, 2017. To date, the strongest hypothesis about its fate suggests that water entered the snorkel of the submarine and caused one of its batteries to short circuit.
In a report published in French newspaper Le Monde, a US Office of Naval Intelligence report linked the disappearance with a sound detected on November 15 at 400 metres below sea level, an explosion it suggested was the equivalent of six tonnes of TNT. However, the Navy rejected this suggestion.
The ARA San Juan's disappearance highlighted the state of decay in the Armed Forces’ infrastructure as well as underscoring failures on the part of the Navy's high command. Several high-ranking Navy officials lost their jobs as a result of the scandal, including Admiral Marcelo Srur who was the chief of the Force at the time.
Meanwhile, Macri, whose poll numbers have weakened following his coalition’s win in the October mid-terms, is seen to be attempting to improve his image.
In early December, relatives had strong words for the President whose only other interaction with them had been in late November during his visit to the headquarters of the then-active rescue effort at the Mar del Plata Navy Base. He was criticised at the time for his casual approach to the crisis, having worn track pants to the base.
“The President (Mauricio Macri) has no idea what he’s saying. He should show his face. Why won’t he come and speak to the families? We’re waiting for him and Minister (Oscar) Aguad”, Alicia, the wife of one of the missing officers, told the A24 news channel weeks later, demanding another meeting with the President.
NAVY DENIES SPY CLAIMS
In other related news, the Argentine Navy denied on Tuesday that the missing submarine had spied on British Navy vessels operating in and around the Malvinas Islands.
Leaked documents obtained by Infobae from the ongoing judicial investigation into the submarine’s disappearance revealed the alleged spying, which the Navy labelled “incorrect”.
According to the documents, the ARA San Juan was responsible for “obtaining precise reconassaince” and “obtaining locations, identifications and filmic/photographic registries” of British vessels.