Marcelino Altamirano, coordinator of the street children’s home La Casita del Puente Afectivo (The Little House of the Bridge of Affection) in the city of Mendoza has been harassed on several occasions and has received threatening telephone calls. On August 29, 2003, his car was set fire to while parked a few metres from a room containing five sleeping children. A few minutes later an unidentified caller left a message saying “te hicimos la maldad”, “we did it”.
La Casita del Puente Afectivo was created in 2001 to work with street children at high risk, in order to help with their social reintegration. The day before the attack, Marcelo Altamirano had publicly complained on a local radio program about the ill-treatment of children by members of the police and about the corruption of public officials.
Human rights defenders working in Mendoza are often target of harassment and threats. Amnesty International has expressed its concern about their safety and on 29 January 2003, addressed the provincial and national authorities regarding the arbitrary detention of children begging in Mendoza city.
LRWC sent a letter to the Governor of Mendoza Province, the Minister of Justice and Security and the President of the Rights and Guarantees Commission asking the government to act quickly to protect Mr. Altamirano and the children for whom he advocates and to identify and punish those responsible for threats to them.