Alberto Fernández’s government is preparing
a series of initiatives to
pay tribute to the lost
crew of the ARA San Juan submarine, almost two-and-a-half
years after its sinking.
Meanwhile, as family members of the victims continue their
own search for answers, the
courts are moving forward with
the criminal investigation probing the actions of senior officers in the Argentine Navy.
After at least two meetings
with relatives of the 44 crewmembers who lost their lives in
the tragedy, Defence Minister
Agustín Rossi announced last
week that the government would
comply with their requests.
“We listened to the different
demands of each of the families,
in order to provide them with
solutions,” Rossi explained.
The ARA San Juan disappeared mysteriously in November
2017 on route to Argentina’s naval base in Mar del Plata. Its crushed wreckage was located almost exactly one year later on
November 16, 2018, by the Seabed Constructor, a ship owned by
US search firm Ocean Infinity,
after a long, traumatic search for
the submarine that drew attention from across the globe.
The government is planning at
least four initiatives to remember the crew: a memorial, a ceremony at sea where the ship
sank, a web platform with detailed information on the crew and
the submarine, and post-mortem promotions for the 44 sailors
who lost their lives.
“All the news was well received,” Luis Tagliapietra, a father
of a late crew-member, told the
Times. “In fact, they were requests that we had been making
to the previous government since [the first day] the submarine
was found. They clearly had not
been dismissed and were transmitted by [then] Navy Chief-ofStaff José Luis Villán, to the current minister,”
Tagliapietra is the father of
A lejandro Tagliapietra, a
27-year-old lieutenant who died
in the sea tragedy.
“From the human point of view,
we found a huge difference compared to the previous minister,”
Tagliapietra said, referring to Oscar Aguad, the Defence minister
when the ship disappeared.
Rossi has promised to build a
memorial in Mar del Plata, where
the submarine was due to return.
It was also there that the largest
group of relatives settled, whilethe search for the submarine was
ongoing. Many of them now live
in that area and, by consensus,
the Atlantic coastal city was chosen to have a place to leave flowers
for their dead. It is still unclear
exactly where the permanent memorial is going to be located.
As the ship was never salvaged, the relatives have had no
chance to bury their loved ones.
The possibility of having a memorial – like those which commemorate the victims of the
1976-1983 military dictatorship,
whose bodies were disappeared
by the Junta – is seen by many of
the group as a way of being able
to move forward with the mourning process.
As trailed by other outlets this
week, the Defence Ministry is
also preparing a trip to where the
submarine sank and its final resting ground in September or October. All the relatives are expected to set sail on board the icebreaker Almirante Irízar to the
area for a ceremony, which will
take place at sea.
“This was an idea of mine that
I discussed with the rest of the
relatives,” Tagliapietra said in an
interview. “I had been in the area
when the submarine was discovered [with the Seabed Constructor]. It was very important
for me to leave something there
for my son.”
Rossi has appointed his Cabinet chief Ana Clara Alberdi, as a
liaison with the family members
of the ARA San Juan. She has
been instructed to help the families with all the requests they
have to file before the courts, in
order to obtain a certificate of the
presumption of death, a necessary procedure for post-mortem
promotions of Navy officers.
According to sources, President Fernández wants to hold a
ceremony at the Casa Rosada to
honour the deceased too, though
no date has been pencilled in yet.
Finally, the relatives have asked the government to create a
website with information about
the submarine, which had been
in rotation for the Argentine Navy since 1986. They want to share
data and information about their
fallen loved ones. Rossi confirmed the Defence Ministry would
move forward with that as well.
Three investigations are currently underway in Argentina
into the tragedy, as experts strive
to find out fully what happened
to the submarine and how it sank.
Last year, a bicameral congressional committee delivered
an extensive report on the sinking. Most of its members pointed to the Navy for the damage
the vessel suffered leading up to
the tragedy of the ARA San Juan.
A minority, made up of deputies
and senators from Macri’s Cambiemos coalition, sought to separate Aguad and the former president from the legal investigation.
Within the Navy, an administrative investigation is now underway, which will lead to the
holding of military councils to
determine where responsibility
lies. Rossi has asked that these
proceedings be accelerated, sources at the Ministry confirmed to
On Thursday, the government
announced its long-trailed renewal of the leadership of the
Armed Forces. That was a measure which had been pending,
ever since Fernández took office
on December 10.
Villán, who was on good terms
with the relatives of the submarine crew, has been replaced by
Rear-Admiral Julio Horacio
Guardia, currently Fleet commander, who graduated from the
Naval Academy in 1985. Like the
rest of the chiefs appointed by
Fernández, he did not join the
Armed Forces during the last
Caleta Olivia Federal Judge
Marta Yáñez is overseeing the
criminal case for the sinking of
ARA San Juan. On January 31,
the judge indicted six Navy officers for malfeasance and culpable negligence. Yañez did not
consider it necessary to question
Marcelo Srur, who headed the
Navy at the time of the sinking,
nor Macri or Aguad, as the plaintiffs had requested.
“From the evidence collected
so far, it does not emerge either
that engineer Mauricio Macri or
lawyer Oscar Aguad were aware
of the defects that the ARA San
Juan had, or that the military
authorities who depended on
them had been acting in an illegal manner or through abuses of
authority,” Yañez wrote in a ruling at the time.
Shortly after taking office,
Rossi contacted the judge to
make himself available and express interest in the investigation.
According to Tagliapietra, who is
directly involved in the proceedings as a lawyer for several families, it is likely that further
expertise will be required in the
case. The Defence Ministry will
need to provide resources to
make this happen, he added.
Lawyers for the families appealed Judge Yáñez’s decision,
arguing that they consider it insufficient. The relatives show no
sign of letting up in their quest to
find out exactly what happened
to their loved ones on November
In the coming weeks, we will
learn how the case will unfold.