Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri will soon deliver a statement to the relatives of the missing-presumed-dead 44 crew members of the ill-fated ARA San Juan submarine, it has been announced.
Macri has maintained silence since the vessel disappeared from the navy’s radars November 15, shortly after reporting an electrical fault and being ordered to return to its home base of Mar del Plata in Buenos Aires.
Plans to deliver a video statement to the families of the missing crew were ultimately rejected by the president’s advisers. Government officials are now discussing the possibility of a live appearance instead.
A government official told local newspaper Clarin on Tuesday: "The President will give a message, he will decree a period of mourning and he will honor them, but right now we care more about the relatives being advised by the ministry of defense and military psychologists."
Macri is reportedly frustrated by the lack of results in the international search for the ARA San Juan and her crew, which has included 28 ships, nine planes and 4,000 people from 18 countries covering 557,000 nautical miles; more, including radar monitoring.
The number of false leads, including the detection of metallic objects on the ocean floor which later turned out to be sunken fishing vessels, has been partly blamed for the president’s refusal to speak publicly.
"The president considers that now is the time for the families and not for the government; it was his decision," the cabinet member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Clarin.
Families of the missing crew members had condemned the president’s failure to so far address them directly as they marched from Mar del Plata on Sunday, demanding to know what happened.
Holding posters with photos of the crew and chanting "Search and Rescue!" the relatives marched following a press conference during which the navy said the submarine had still not been located.
The disaster has spurred soul searching over the state of the military in Argentina, which now has one of Latin America's smallest defense budgets in relation to economic size after a series of financial crises.
"Our disagreement is with the government, not with the navy," Marcela Moyano, wife of crew member Hernán Rodríguez, told Reuters during the protest. "Whoever is responsible needs to be held responsible."
Spokesman Enrique Balbi said on Thursday the navy had abandoned hope of rescuing the crew alive, noting the ARA San Juan had air supplies for a week while 15 days had passed since it last reported its position.
Some family members complained they were not advised before the general public of the end of the rescue mission and have demanded more contact with Macri.
While local media have speculated Macri will soon declare a period of national mourning for the submarine crew, he has been silent in recent days.
"He (Macri) needs to be here because this is the priority: there are 44 families behind this situation and someone has to be in charge," said Marcela Fernández, wife of Alberto Sánchez.