On Friday February 27 the Las Heras political prisoners Jose Rosales, Germany Perez, Hugo Gonzalez, Dario Catrihuala, Ramon Cortes and Juan Pablo Bilbao, were released. They had been jailed for three years by the oil company bosses and the Kirchner government, subject to all kinds of torture and inhuman treatment, as an example to intimidate the working class.
The Kirchner government appears to have released the prisoners fearing that their deterrent effect was exhausted and that they might become a rallying point for a new mass workers' offensive in Argentina or internationally. They were released just at the time when workers are beginning to mobilize in opposition to a new round of attacks on the working masses provoked by the global economic crisis. The oil and construction workers of Patagonia are raising the same demands they raised three years in the massive strike by workers at Las Heras. The government and oil companies have released the prisoners in the hope of avoiding the same upsurge of class struggle they faced at that time.
The government of Cristina Kirchner models herself on "Obama" who posed as a Democrat and defender of human rights by announcing the closure of Guantanamo while keeping Iraqi resistance fighters, Afghan and Palestinian prisons in secret CIA jails and expelling or jailing immigrant workers. Kirchner poses as the "champion of human rights" when along with her husband Nestor they locked up more than 5000 militants as political prisoners, allowed the assassination of the teacher Carlos Fuentealba, many killed through the bosses negligence at work like the 10 Bolivian migrant workers at Alua, and the disappearance of Julio Lopez.
Kirchner wants to create the impression of a ‘democratic regime’, and hopes that the release of the prisoners will give her free hand to free the assassins of the military dictatorship. Much as in the past the regime released elderly assassins like Etcheco Latz, it wants to exchange the whole genocidal officer caste in jail for the comrades of Las Heras. Once again the old theory of “amnesty” means that the dictatorship is “forgotten” so that the regime can call on the officer assassins next time it wants to repress the struggle of the exploited.
It was the unrelenting struggle of hundreds of organizations and actions nationally and internationally, and the campaign of Workers Democracy in Argentina and the FLT internationally, together with the workers of the French Hospital and Brukman that helped to break the silence around the 6 worker political prisoners of Las Heras, and took the struggle to the workers in Argentina and internationally to win the release of these comrades after three years in prison.
The comrades have been released. But they are on parole because they still face a trial and run the risk of being convicted for a maximum of life imprisonment. This is likely if the employer succeeds in defeating the proletariat and imposes the social pact in the face of the global economic crisis. That is why the fate of the comrades, like that of all militant workers, including those still in jail or facing prosecution, depends on the struggle of all workers and their organizations making common cause with the Iraqi and Afghan workers and the Palestinian people of Gaza to defeat the imperialists and the Zionists and other bourgeois lackeys that kill or imprison all those who resist the “wars for oil”.
Conversely, if labor unions and popular organizations come out in support of the comrades of Las Heras, fighting to drop the charges, the oil workers return to the struggle against sackings, for equal pay for equal work, the end to black-market work, reinstatement of the sacked, dividing the working hours among employed and unemployed with wages pegged to inflation, renationalizing and expropriating Repsol without compensation and under workers control, and link this struggle to the international proletariat, then we can defeat the “wars for oil”.
That's why Workers Democracy calls on all labor unions and popular organization that have worked to free the comrades of Las Heras to redouble the fight to drop the charges of more than 5000 militant workers who are in jail or facing charges. Build a fund to support the comrades and the families from facing poverty and hunger. Above all we call on them to join forces to convene a National Labor Congress, with delegates of the rank and file of the labor movement to confront the attacks by the monopolies, the enslaving employers, Kirchner's government and the union bureaucracy of the CGT and the CTA, to make the capitalist pay for their own crisis.
From Workers Democracy we make the call for the released comrades of Las Heras who are willing to do so to take the leadership in the fight to release all the political prisoners. Without a doubt we cannot fight and win a strong National Labor Congress while our best fighters are in jail as the political hostages of the bosses and the Kirchner regime.
¡Comrades get to work!
Translated and edited by CWG from Democracia Obrera 35, March 2008.