Buenos Aires, Argentina — Photojournalist and activist Facundo Morales died on August 10 after being arrested at a protest in downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina. Social organizations said the police murdered Morales while authorities say he died from a heart attack.
The 47-year-old Argentine was also a former member of Colombia’s now-defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist guerilla group that signed a peace accord with the Colombian government in 2016, as well as a reported member of Rebelión Popular (Popular Rebellion), an activist group in Argentina.
According to Buenos Aires’s ministry of health, Morales fell unconscious while being restrained on the ground by police and died on the way to the hospital of a cardiac arrest.
Morales was with a group of protesters at Buenos Aires’ Obelisco monument on August 10. Ahead of the country’s primary elections, which were held on Sunday, organizers were reportedly going to burn a large ballot box in protest when police intervened, according to a statement from the police.
Protesters have claimed that they didn’t plan to light the ballot box on fire, and that the police attacked the crowd without reason. In the ensuing melee, six protesters were arrested, including Morales.
A video posted online reportedly shows Morales and other protesters being restrained behind a line of riot police, separated from the rest of the protesters. The person filming keeps saying, “he’s purple, he’s purple,” and pleads with police to let him breathe.
Police reportedly realized that Morales was unconscious and performed CPR while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Buenos Aires’ System of Emergency Medical Attention (SAME) said, “For more than half an hour, CPR was performed until death was confirmed. The causes of death are related to cardiac arrest resulting from risk factors.”
“Facundo was hit on the head, they hit him as many times as they could,” Lali Machado, an activist and protester that was arrested along with Morales that day, said in an interview with IP Noticias. The city’s Security Minister Eugenio Burzaco refuted the claim that police hit Morales.
The Chief of Government of Buenos Aires and former presidential candidate Horacio Rodríguez Larreta released a statement saying, “Today at a demonstration with incidents, Facundo Morales died after organ failure. I regret his death and extend my condolences to his family.” The leader went on to praise the police response and said he “fully supported” the actions they took.
Leandro Santoro, a national deputy in the Chamber of Deputies and candidate for Chief of Government of Buenos Aires, said, “Any death produced in the framework of a police operation deserves a detailed investigation. The hasty conclusions of the city’s political authorities, which did not even wait for the results of the autopsy, do not help to clarify the tragic events.”
Morales’s death is currently being investigated by Prosecutor Marcela Sánchez, who asked for all CCTV footage surrounding the Obelisco. His autopsy was made public on Friday 11 and it revealed that he died of “congestion, edema, pulmonary hemorrhage and dilated heart disease,” but the doctors also stated that “no stabbing, cutting, or penetrating traumatic injuries were observed on the body surface or internal organs.”