A leftist political activist taking part in a protest days before national primary elections in Argentina died of a heart attack that he suffered while being detained by police Thursday, authorities said.
Video posted on the Instagram account of Susana Maresca, an independent photojournalist, shows Buenos Aires city police pinning the man face down on the pavement when Maresca starts yelling: “He’s purple! He’s purple! He’s going to suffer an attack. He’s purple!”
The video shows officers then turning the unresponsive man over and performing CPR on him before he was taken to a hospital. He later died, the city government said in a statement.
“The causes of the death are related to a cardiac arrest resulting from risk factors,” the statement said. It described the man as being “between 40 and 45 years old” but did not name him because he did not have a document on him.
People at the scene identified the victim as Facundo Molares, a leftist activist who was part of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym FARC, for 15 years and who now worked as a photographer for alternative media. The FARC reached a peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016.
Police detained the man and several others near the capital’s iconic Obelisk as they tried to disperse the protest that had been called by several left-wing groups.
The death could spark anger ahead of the primaries Sunday in which Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta is one of the top two contenders to become the presidential candidate of the main opposition coalition.
“I want to highlight and fully support the actions of the city police, who acted professionally in containing the acts of violence,” the mayor said in a statement posted on social media.
The city Security and Justice Minister Eugenio Burzaco said in an interview with local channel América that when police tried to disperse protesters, the demonstrators responded “with sticks.”
“Following that, the police detained five aggressors, and after a few minutes, one of them began to experience a cardiac and respiratory arrest,” Burzaco said.
Human rights groups criticized the action by police as well as the response by officials.
“The city government, even before any judicial investigation could take place, rushed to establish a narrative that seeks to claim that Facundo’s death resulted from causes unrelated to the operative,” wrote the Center for Legal and Social Studies.
The protesters denied they tried to block the street or did anything to provoke police.
“We gathered to hold an assembly with our colleagues to discuss the country’s situation … we don’t know why (the police intervened). We didn’t do anything, we didn’t block the street. We weren’t violent, we didn’t do anything,” said one activist, Delia Delgado from the Teresa Rodríguez organization.
Protests against the police continued late into the night in downtown Buenos Aires Thursday.
Molares moved to the Colombian jungle in the early 2000s where he took on the role of political organizer, among other tasks, for the FARC, he said in a recent interview with Argentina’s state-run news agency Télam. He was arrested in November 2021 in Argentina due to an international arrest warrant issued by Colombia which accused him of the 2009 kidnapping of a local politician.
Molares spent almost eight months behind bars in Argentina until Colombia’s extradition request was denied.
The death came as Argentines were reeling from the killing of an 11-year-old girl Wednesday during a snatch-and-grab robbery in a Buenos Aires suburb. Her death led all major political coalitions to cancel their final campaign rallies ahead of Sunday’s vote.
Associated Press writer Débora Rey contributed to this report.