Four months after their father’s death, the children of late Catamarca Social Development Minister Juan Carlos Rojas this week publicly denounced an alleged “cover-up” intended to hide the true circumstances of their father’s murder.
The children, supported by Catamarca’s current Social Development Minister Gonzalo Mascheroni, showed photo evidence of their father’s disfigured face, which could rule out the initial hypothesis of a natural death.
The accusations were made during a press conference called by the Rojas children – Natalia, Fernando and Mónica Rojas – and their lawyer Iván Sarquis.
“We call upon the media to expose everything that is going on – the malicious and fallacious way in which they are seeking to hide the truth of our father’s death. The courts have lied to us, telling both the Catamarca people and our family that my dad died alone from a fall and that he had departed in peace and without violence,” Natalia claimed.
“Now we know that Dad did not fall, nor faint, nor have a heart attack. Dad was brutally beaten up after being forced to kneel down with his face and mouth smashed in and an eye gouged. They finished him off by breaking his skull from end to end. Then, they dragged him in order to throw him into the courtyard before cleaning up the scene by breaking and throwing everything in sight,” she continued.
Alongside Natalia’s vivid description, Fernando exhibited a series of gruesome photos of their father’s corpse in which the disfigured face and marks of violence on the late minister’s body are clearly visible.
Family lawyer Iván Sarquís confirmed that the data supplied by Rojas’ children “comes from the official reports of the autopsy with blow-ups made by the Forensic Interdisciplinary Corps. With this, we want to make clear that we are facing an evident coverup of homicide.”
“They said it was a natural death and that’s a lie. They should be ashamed of themselves lying to a family like that,” Natalia declared to reporters.
The family called upon the courts “to make such a manoeuvre accountable … [by] sending those involved to jail.”
“If the courts are going to protect them with a cover-up, we will not follow. We will not remain silent. Justice must be done,” Natalia concluded.
Rojas, 73, was found dead in the patio of his house by his son Fernando around noon on Sunday, December 4, 2022. The time of death was estimated as the previous day.
Although at first official sources stated Rojas had died from natural causes, the investigation gained momentum after the results of the second autopsy determined the cause of death was a blow to the head from a blunt instrument.
The victim’s domestic employee, Silvia Nieva, was indicted for “homicide, doubly aggravated by her intimate relationship [with Rojas] and treachery.” The indictment was delivered by prosecutor Laureano Palacios, who was later taken off the investigation for perceived irregularities and replaced by Hugo Costilla.
While on the case, Palacios put in a request for a jury to counteract the “malfeasance and grave distortion of the facts which might constitute a crime” and “inexcusable ignorance of the law” and that has since been found admissible by the Catamarca Tribunal for the Impeachment of Magistrates.
According to the Télam state news agency, Costilla has summoned Fabiola Segura, Catamarca’s provincial security minister and Ángel Agüero, former provincial police chief, to testify in proceedings, while federal forces have been added to the investigation at the request of the Attorney-General’s Office.
“The family is not only searching for the masterminds of the homicide, but also those implementing and behind the cover-up. Somebody made the decision to hide the truth,” Sarquís declared.
Juan Carlos Rojas used this week’s press conference to call on the justice system to summon and the Secretary-General of the Tourism, Hotel, and Restaurant Workers Union Luis Barrionuevo to testify.
The union leader, who responded by saying Rojas was his "most trusted person in Catamarca,” pushed back against the allegation, saying the family did not love the deceased official as much as he did. He also observed that the minister's son had discovered the crime scene and criticised him for not calling the police immediately upon discovering the body.