December 16, 2017
Friday, September 5, 2014

Berni backs ‘tripping’ Border Guard

Border Guard commander Juan Alberto López Toral is seen jumping onto a car on July 31.
Border Guard commander Juan Alberto López Toral is seen jumping onto a car on July 31.
Border Guard commander Juan Alberto López Toral is seen jumping onto a car on July 31.
By Federico Poore
Herald Staff

Video shows commander jumping on protesters’ car before arrest

It was a tough day politically for Security Secretary Sergio Berni as video was made public showing a top Border Guard commander jumping in front of a car in order to get the driver arrested.

Human rights groups and leftist parties were quick to crticize the action but last night Berni refused to criticize the Border Guard, going as far as to suggest he had tripped.

“The courts will decide whether (the Border Guard) tripped” before falling onto the car’s windshied, the Security secretary said during a phone interview with Plan M, a news programme on cable channel Canal 26.

Berni also hinted that the officer was following the standard protocol to stop a car travelling at five kilometres per hour because it had “broken traffic laws.”

The episode that was caught on tape took place on the morning of July 31 during a protest staged by workers of the Lear auto-parts company in northern Greater Buenos Aires. Unedited footage of the incident began to circulate on social media soon after, but yesterday members of the Socialist Workers’ Party (PTS) posted two new videos that showed the evident stunt staged by Border Guard commander Juan Alberto López Toral.

The driver, Cristian Romero — who was part of the protesters’ caravan — was forcibly pulled out of the car and handcuffed by a number of Border Guards who pushed him onto the ground even though he did not resist arrest.

Prosecutor Diego Molina Pico charged him with “injuries” and “assault to authority.”

The incident occurred as workers from Lear were protesting against layoffs and suspensions announced by the company, located in the Buenos Aires provincial district of General Pacheco. In a move that has become common over the last few weeks, Border Guard officers then appeared to “free” one or more lanes of the Pan-American highway using tear gas, rubber bullets and other violent methods, as protesters have denounced in the past.

A retired colonel leading the operative

Images released yesterday also depict a white-haired man in a blue jacket allegedly leading the operative against workers and activists.

The man, identified as Roberto Ángel Galeano, is a retired Army colonel once allied to another retired colonel, the former leader of the Carapintadas Army mutineers Mohamed Alí Seineldín.

According to journalist Horacio Verbitsky, former Defence Minister Nilda Garré discharged him from office, but Berni reappointed him as “coordinator” of the security forces.

PTS lawyer Myriam Bregman said he “wandered between the workers and then gave Border Guards instructions on whom to arrest,” an episode that “clearly violates the Domestic Security Law.”

Last night, Berni said Galeano was “only in charge of supervising the action of Border Guards” and that he was a Security ministry official.

New protest

Yesterday morning, workers, leftist organizations and independent activists staged a new round of protests against layoffs at Lear, which resumed operations last month after being closed for 15 days.

But even though the factory was reopened, 67 of its former employees were denied entry to the company’s premises.

Delegates that had been illegally fired were allowed back into the firm only after seven judicial rulings forced Lear to do so — but they were never reinstated in their posts.

In fact, delegates were put in what they call a “cage,” an improvised, miniature-sized working space set up by the company that keeps them away from the rest of the workers. Earlier this week, Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Nora Cortiñas — a member of the Mother of the Plaza de Mayo-Founding Line — signed a document condemning the firm’s attitude.

The SMATA auto workers’ union led by Ricardo Pignanelli sided with the company and blamed leftist movements for the conflict.


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