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The worst move in the history of Neuquén

In 1904 the prisoners of the Neuquine prison U9 had to make a painful move through the Patagonian desert. We
The worst thing about us
| 07 February, 2020 |

Moving is not easy. It’s usually expensive, requires a lot of organization and being willing to lose something or anything else in the suit. But, they say, it has its benefits. It implies a positive change in people’s lives, often a second chance. For the 40 inmates of the Neuquine U9 prison , it was the worst move of their lives.

A prison in the middle of the desert

Firstly, the place where they were to move did not generate much expectations among the prison population. The new prison was in the middle of the Patagonian desert. Official documentation stated that the new building was made of sheet metal with ground floor. Moreover, it had no perimeter wall or wall to surround it. The situation of the federal prison was so precarious that, just five months after its inauguration, its builders requested the National Public Administration to return the building for non-payment.

Who wants to move in?

However, winds of change were running in the province of Neuquén. The new capital of the territory had been inaugurated. Employees and officials were opening new offices. Even the furniture and archives had already arrived in the town of Neuquén. However, there was one thing that had not been taken into account: how would the 40 prisoners still in the old Chos Malalprison be transferred?

All the preparations that seemed simple to organize became in a real peripecia: there was a lack of chariots, horses and mules for transfer prisoners and court staff. Not enough staff surveillance to guard during the journey so criminals dangerous. And, to top it off, there was no money available to deal with all the expenses that such a voyage required.

And finally, the move

After so many inconveniences, the caravan was finally able to leave Chos Malal on October 4. With a precarious transport equipment and guarded by more than 30 soldiers of the 29th Infantry Regiment, marched the 40 prisoners on the desert road to Añelo. It was 13 days of hardship and mortifications, where water and medical care were lacking.

The convoy arrived in Neuquén on October 17, but the move did not end that day. The new public prison was closed, pending its opening. The detainees had to be housed in a miserable zinc shed, which became yet another story of disease and suffering.

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