Seventy-one-year-old Carlos Robledo Puch is the longest-serving convict in Argentina’s criminal history. Since his arrest and sentencing to life imprisonment, 51 years have gone by. In the midst, debates have emerged with changes in the Criminal Code and the concept of life imprisonment itself, but the “Angel of Death,” as Robledo Puch is commonly known, remains detained in Unit 26 of the Lisandro Olmos prison with no authorisation for any release.
Nationwide over 2,400 people have been sentenced to life imprisonment. On February 17, 25-year-old Magdalena Espósito Valenti and Abigail Páez, 27, joined that list after being sentenced to life terms for the murder of five-year-old Lucio Dupuy, beaten to death by his mother and her partner. Máximo Thomsen, 23, Ciroand Luciano Pertossi, 22 and 21 respectively, Enzo Comelli, 22, and Matías Benicelli, 23, also now form part of this infamous group for the 2020 murder of 18-year-old Fernando Báez Sosa.
According to the latest report of SNEEP (Sistema Nacional de Estadísticas sobre Ejecución de la Pena) for 2021 there were 55,933 convicts nationwide, of whom 2,489 had been sentenced to life imprisonment – around four percent.
Between the convicts and those on trial, the end of 2021 saw 101,267 persons housed in prisons in Argentina, both those of the Federal Penitentiary Service and of their provincial equivalents. Of those detained, 17 percent were aged under 24, climbing to a majority (56 percent) being aged under 35.
Nahir Galarza, 24, and Aldana Rosarno Díaz, 22, are two of the youngest, most high-profile detainees. Both of them are linked to homicides which they committed according to the understanding of each court judging them.
Galarza was convicted for killing her 20-year-old boyfriend Fernando Pastorizzo, who suffered two gunshot wounds in Entre Ríos on December 29, 2017. That same day, but one year later, Rosarno Díaz participated in the murder of 36-year-old Gustavo García Ibáñez at her home in the Greater Buenos Aires locality of Ezeiza.
As understood by the jury judging her, Aldana lured the victim by deceit to her house, where they both arrived riding on his motorcycle. Once inside, he was ambushed by two other people (one of whom was the girl’s boyfriend), who killed him and left his body trussed up. Two days later Aldana returned and set the place on fire. Only after that was the victim discovered by firemen and shortly afterwards, Rosarno Díaz was arrested. Aldana was sentenced last year to life imprisonment (along with her boyfriend) on charges of “homicide criminis causa” – i.e. murder to conceal another crime: the robbery of the motorcycle.
Precisely the legal categories according to which Nahir and Aldana were convicted form part of the crimes denying the convict access to any benefit after 35 years of confinement.
Argentina’s Criminal Code of 1921 foresaw the possibility of conditional release after 20 years behind bars, except for recidivists. If the conditions of conditional release were met for five years, the sentence was considered served and extinguished. The penalty for re-offenders, however, was life imprisonment without the possibility of conditional release, while giving judges the option of imposing “indefinite reclusion” in cases of aggravated homicide.
That is what happened to Robledo Puch. In 1982 his sentence was defined as “indefinite reclusion for life” for 11 murders committed between 1971 and 1972. Until now, none of the lawyers representing him have got him out of prison, but in 2004 the term before acceding to the benefit of conditional release was extended to 35 years, while also making this benefit impossible for cases of aggravated homicide as outlined in Article 80, Clause 7 – rape followed by death, kidnap for ransom and abduction followed by death.
Finally, in 2017 the restrictions were carried a step further to extend the impossibility to all aggravated homicides (not just those in Clause 7) so that life imprisonment means life. This would cover the five rugby-players sentenced to life because they were convicted for homicide aggravated by malice aforethought and hence premeditated. Ditto for the women who killed Lucio as explained by Verónica Ferrero, the prosecutor in the trial: “Article 14 of the Criminal Code establishes that those convicted for this crime cannot request under any terms conditional release after 35 years.”
Jorge Mangeri, the 55-year-old janitor who killed 16-year-old Ángeles Rawson in 2013, is a different case – he could have access to conditional release in 2048 because his crime was committed before the last reform.
‘A conviction challenges all the previous beliefs in impunity’
Máximo Thomsen passed out after hearing the judges of TOF (Tribunal Oral en lo Criminal) 1 Court in Dolores sentence him to life imprisonment, along with four of his friends. Brothers Ciro and Luciano Pertossi wept, while their cousin Lucas Pertossi could also not hide his anguish.
“The announcement of their conviction signified the collapse of their previous world, with everything forming part of known reality rapidly fading,” explains psychologist Irene Sirianni, pointing out that those with psychopathic personalities “have emotions … but only for themselves.”
“Although that person knows their circumstances, the conviction tends to burst through as a surprise, based not on ignorance but on expectations (whether sustained by realistic hypotheses or fantasies) of being able to elude the consequences of their actions,” the specialist in forensic psychodiagnosis tells Perfil.
“Their fear of the present and the future, their anger over an adverse reality, their impotence of knowing that although the instance of appeal exists, their sentence has been written and will have to be accepted in the immediate term so that there is nothing which can be done against it.”
According to the specialist, those convicted of killing Báez Sosa, Galarza and Dupuy have certain personality traits in common, characterised by “the lack of empathy with others, a sense of impunity as to their own conduct and an emotional distance from the consequences of that conduct.”
In such cases, she highlights, “there is frequently a sensation of frustration and extreme impotence because they tend to be people who go through life with the profound conviction that they are always going to get away with it without any consequences… so that the reality comes as a devastating blow defying all their previous beliefs in their impunity, personal success and power over everybody else and over every situation.”
“Psychopathic personalities,” she concludes, “contrary to the belief of most people, have emotions and express them, only that they are strictly for their personal use for themselves only. All their emotions are expressed at the moment they feel the impact of a situation exclusively affecting them.”