In 2020, we spent international women’s day with a mother who had just lost her son. Guido Ortiz, only 19 years old, was trying to earn money for school by working at the Buenos Aires illegal mining site. Many people from the community — particularly the indigenous Awá members of the community — have worked there to overcome the economic disparities of the region; it is some of the only work available.
The area is steeped in conflict, with the military and the police both in the region, but unable to fully control the large-scale, unsanctioned mining activities. This is, in part, because of widespread corruption: Members of the military and the police are involved in the illegal mining industry in the area, taking bribes for protection during extraction and transportation, and extorting miners operating illegally for a percentage of their profits.
And the involvement of the police in the unregulated mining activities in the region seems to have led directly to this young man’s death. It appears that Guido was being held for payment, for part of the profits from the gold mine, which he did not have. When it became apparent that no one could pay for his release, he was murdered, and his body dumped in the river.
To date, no legal action has been taken on behalf of the victim or his family. No one has been charged with the murder, and no investigation seems to be happening.
No mother should ever have to go through this. No mother should have to outlive her children; no mother should ever have to see her pleas for justice go unanswered. So today, we want to bring this story back to the front of our collective attention, and ask: where is the justice for Guido Ortiz?