On March 12, 2018, on the steps of the entrance of the Devoto University Center, located within the Federal Penitentiary Complex of the City of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta made an announcement that seemed historic: “We are proud to tell you that we are going to move Devoto’s jail. There is no prison in the world in the middle of the city, like here. The inmates will be transferred to a new property that we will build in Marcos Paz. And in this place we will have new homes and green spaces, “he said, before journalists, officials and a group of neighbors who have been demanding the transfer for decades.
It was estimated that Marcos Paz’s new prison was to be finished by September 2020. But from that day, and until November 2020, things happened.
At first, everything started well. Larreta signed the agreement and made the contract official; He assured that in 65% of the Devoto property there would be public spaces and in the rest houses, and construction began in Marcos Paz, with a capacity for 2,240 inmates. The neighbors were invited to know the progress of the work.
On March 12, 2018, when Horacio Rodríguez Larreta announced the move of the Devoto prison.
But in March of last year the coronavirus arrived, and in April, the Devoto prison made national news: the inmates they took the penalty for hours and they reached the rooftops, making a series of demands in the middle of the pandemic. Months earlier, a unit pavilion had burned down, built in 1924 and opened three years later.
On April 24, the prisoners rioted and reached the roofs of Devoto prison. Photo Lucia Merle
In mid-November, and within the framework of the 2021 budget planning announcements, the City Government announced that the project for the transfer of the Devoto prison, and the work of the Marcos Paz prison, were canceled due to the withdrawal of funds from the coparticipation. Neighbors found out from the media. AND they were disappointed again. At the same time, the UOCRA denounced that 400 of its workers had been fired due to the stoppage of the work.
Gonzalo Aguilar is one of the leaders in the neighbors’ struggle for the eradication of the prison. In their best times they managed to gather 7 thousand signatures and group up to 200 people. The different neighborhood associations always supported them.
Gonzalo Aguilar in 2011. For years he has been one of the leaders of the neighbors’ struggle for the eradication of the prison. Stock Photo
“Beyond promises, hopes are always renewed. That time of the announcement seemed to us the opportunity in which we were closest: there was a national, provincial and city government of the same political party. Today the project seems to have failed. We need the work to be completed and the transfer to be completed, ”he says.
According to sources from the City Government, in 2021 will receive $ 52 billion less by way of reduction of the percentage of co-participation by the Nation (from 3.5% to 2.3%). From that they presented a “Temporary adjustment program” in which, in addition to the suspension at least momentary of the project to move the prison, the postponement of the construction of 95 kilometers of bicycle lanes, the enhancement of the Alvear theater and the transfer of the Hacienda Market was included.
Devoto’s landscape always collides with jail. Photo Mario Quinteros
In Devoto, the pandemic changed the landscape around the prison unit. The visits were suspended until October and the shops on Bermúdez Street remained closed, so there were practically no movements. In those days, relatives could only come to deposit merchandise for the detainees.
“Today is the same panorama as always Aguilar points out. “And it’s not even normal: now the view has worsened, because the roofs are still broken. That image represents the disinvestment that exists in the prisons ”.
The roofs of Devoto prison have been broken since the riot broke out in April last year. Photo Luciano Thieberger
Throughout the last few years, Clarion public complaints from neighbors: They said they had no privacy since the detainees yelled things at them when they wanted to sunbathe or eat a barbecue on the terraces. Or that some nights it was difficult for them to sleep due to the noise of fights, music, gunshots or a siren that sounded at any time. All these problems continue.
Devoto’s neighbors, gathered for one of the notes that Clarín published about their complaints, in 2016. Photo Mario Quinteros
“I think people never quite trusted the latest ad, because there were no investments ”, says José Pintimalli, of the real estate agency in the neighborhood that bears his name. “If it had been something safe, we would have seen the buying and selling of real estate. There was no purchase of property in the vicinity of the jail. The only thing that could be seen are spare parts in the odd house. But the public looking for properties is still not interested in the area”.
In the last weeks, and for an infinite time, the annoying noises have crept into the neighbors’ houses. From the week of Monday 4 the Devoto prisoners returned to demonstrate. Make batucadas from 22, for an hour. “It is claimed for the repair of the roofs, the extension of visiting and recreation hours, cleaning elements, agility in the cases, overcrowding and various repairs,” explains one of the detainees’ referents.
Outside, the neighbors have no idea of the causes. Some, already resigned, say they are used to living with jail. Others still hope to get up and find another landscape.