Hundreds of people took to the streets of the capital on Thursday to demand justice for Facundo Astudillo Castro.
The protest was held one day after forensic experts confirmed that the skeletal remains of a body found in a rural area of Buenos Aires Province belonged to Castro, a 22-year-old who had been missing for more than 100 days. The young man, whose disappearance was reported by his family, was last seen alive on April 30 at a police checkpoint.
Many demonstrators at the rally called on the authorities to fully investigate police officers in the Buenos Aires Province police force who detained Castro for breaking the coronavirus quarantine. Relatives of the late Argentine believe the officers played a role in his disappearance and subsequent death.
Human rights organisations, leftist and union groups were all represented at Thursday’s march, which ran from the National Congress building to the City’s iconic Plaza de Mayo. Most protesters wore face masks and respected social distancing measures. A similar demonstration took place in the provincial capital of La Plata.
"Until we embrace again flaco. I do not forget, I do not forgive, I do not reconcile. Truth, memory and justice," tweeted Cristina Castro, Facundo’s mother, prior to the rally.
She was unable to attend the demonstration, as she had travelled back home to the family home in Pedro Luro, some 570 kilometres south of the capital.
Facundo Castro was last seen alive on April 30 in Villarino. He had departed from his home in Pedro Luro and was reportedly hitchhiking on his way to Bahía Blanca, around 100 kilometres away, to see his former partner. He never arrived at his destination.
Confirmation of his death came from DNA tests carried out on skeletal remains, which were discovered by fishermen in the lagoon zone of Villarino Viejo on August 15, more than three and a half months since his disappearance.
The late youth’s relatives and their lawyers suspect that Facundo died at the hands of the police and that the place where the body was found – five kilometres from Ruta 3 where he had been travelling – is not where his death occurred.
Members of the provincial police force say Castro was detained at roadblocks twice during his trip. They say that he was cautioned for breaking quarantine and that he was allowed to continue on his way afterwards.
Suspicion of the authorities was strong at Thursday’s rally. Banners could be seen with slogans such as "The State is responsible" and "Get Berni out" (a reference to provincial Security Minister Sergio Berni, who has previously backed the officers involved).
Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof said Wednesday that he made a “personal commitment” that “no-one prevents the investigation from proceeding until the final consequences."
Some of the groups who demonstrated Thursday called for the "setting up an independent investigative commission, a truth commission, in parallel with the Judiciary,” which would include Cristina Castro and members of human rights organisations, in order to “discover the truth."