Argentine navy covered up submarine disaster, claims grieving father
Christmas was a desperate time for Luis Tagliapietra, the father of Alejandro Damián, one of the youngest of the 44 missing sailors of the Argentine submarine that disappeared 42 days ago off the southern coast of the country.
Alejandro, 27, nicknamed Dami, was on board the German-built military vessel, which joined the Argentine fleet in 1983, before he was born. He was on his final routine training voyage before qualifying and had been planning graduation celebrations.
“We’ll come together like we always do, but Dami won’t be with us. There’s no celebration,” his father, a lawyer, told The Times. This Christmas the father of three shared a traditional asado, barbecued beef, with his son, Lucas, 25, and daughter, Micaela, 19.
For Mr Tagliapietra there are still too many unanswered questions about why the boat is yet to be recovered. “Why does the navy hide things [from us]? Something very serious must have happened for so many lies to be told and for the total lack of effort to find it,” he said.
Argentina dismissed its naval chief, Admiral Marcelo Srur, on December 16 after the naval authorities were heavily criticised for withholding information about the recovery effort, observing an archaic protocol that directs that the search for missing submarines is delayed for 48 hours from the time they are reported lost.
More than a dozen countries were brought in to help the search but only three, including Britain, remain and the bizarre logistics of the vessels have raised questions about a cover-up.
Ships involved in the hunt for the San Juan have been ordered to refuel days away from the designated search area instead of the two closest ports of Comodoro Rivadavia and Madryn in Patagonia, that reportedly have the capacity to refuel ships of that size.
Relatives of the missing allege that the full-scale international search effort lasted for only 96 hours and that the Argentine navy ordered it to stop. The navy has also turned away help from industrial fishing boats that have offered their services, according to local press.
Speculation is growing that the authorities are attempting to cover up unofficial offshore oil exploration that may have led to explosions beneath the seabed. A huge blast in the area, recorded by monitoring stations in the South Atlantic hours after the submarine’s final communication, has led to the main hypothesis of a catastrophic accident.
Mr Tagliapietra is representing the families of the missing sailors as part of a parliamentary committee set up this month to investigate the disappearance. Relatives are hopeful that a judge-led inquiry will be able to apportion blame.
Last week the authorities raided the navy’s headquarters for documents linked to the repair and engineering work of the submarine in 2008, which included replacing the vessel’s possibly faulty batteries.