December 6, 2013
‘We don’t defend idiots — only workers’
Sarmiento railway union delegate Rubén ‘Pollo’ Sobrero talks to the Herald
Sarmiento railway union delegate Rubén “Pollo” Sobrero is one of the most recognizable faces in the fractured world of railway workers representatives. The leader has gained positions inside the union by being a self-described left-wing leader, differentiating himself from the then Unión Ferroviaria leader José Pedraza, who ended up behind bars after he was accused of planning the attack that ended with the murder of Workers’ Party (PO) member Mariano Ferreyra.
Following Saturday’s Sarmiento line train crash in the Once train station that injured almost 100 people, Sobrero talked to the Herald about the current railway management and the security measures that still need to be completed in the country’s rail system.
What is your version of the events that took place on Saturday?
We are going to wait for the comrade to testify in order to know what happened. We’re not going to be as reckless as the government.
Was the hard drive containing GPS data from Plate 5 in the rucksack of engine driver Julio Benítez, as some media outlets have reported?
Let me put it this way. If you’re driving a train and hurt yourself the way the comrade did — getting a broken nose and 200 furious passengers wanting to beat you to death... How do you get to open a locked cabinet and take the GPS out?
Does the motorman have the key to that cabinet?
No, the company does.
Did you have the chance to speak with Benítez?
No. He was isolated (by judge Ariel Lijo).
But do you know him?
On Saturday you claimed “evidence has been manipulated.” What do you mean by that?
We’re really worried about several things that took place at the time of the accident. When the train crashed, other train workers got to the scene and tried to pull the motorman out of the cabin, as he was badly hurt. When (Security Secretary Sergio) Berni and (Interior and Transport Minister Florencio) Randazzo’s people arrived they cleared the station and let other people from outside the union inside. Then they announced they had found the hard drive in the motorman’s rucksack, that it was “badly damaged” and that it would be hard to make it work.
Initial reports said that at the Castelar train tragedy, brakes were not activated by the train engine driver. Is it possible that the same could have happened this time around?
Who said so?
The investigation committee set to analyze the train’s black box registry.
If the comrade made a mistake, well, he should take responsibility for it. We’re not going to make any kind of corporative defence here. We don’t defend idiots — only workers. But we’re facing the same situation as when Randazzo showed these guys (train engine drivers) sleeping while driving. The thing is that you must have the necessary security elements in order to avoid those accidents.
Beyond this political strategy, is there a possibility of human error in one or more of these accidents?
There’s obviously a chance. All accidents are either human failures or technical failures. Comrades told me: “We tried to stop the train.” The courts will determine whether they lied to me or not. But we’re discussing something else here. Over these last 20 years of privately-run trains we had more accidents than during the prior 50 years of public ownership. If workers are to be held responsible for all of this, they should call the (former TBA train company owners Claudio and Mario) Cirigliano back and ask them for forgiveness.
You think the situation regarding trains is the same as before the Once train crash of February 2012 when 51 people were killed?
No, we’re worse off today.
In what sense?
In every sense. The only thing we asked Randazzo was for him to install the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system. With that system, both the Once and the Castelar train crashes could have been avoided — it automatically stops the train if the engine driver crosses a red signal.
Has the ATP system been installed yet?
No, it was never implemented. The tender process was cancelled twice. I think they’re going through a third one now.
Do you believe the current situation will change with the arrival of new Chinese carriages in 2014?
No, because (the ATP) is a signaling system, it has nothing to do with the carriages.