A left-wing political activist taking part in a protest days before national primary elections in Argentina died of a heart attack that he suffered while being detained by police Thursday, authorities said.
Video posted on social media shows Buenos Aires city police pinning the man face down on the pavement when the person filming starts yelling: “He’s purple! He’s purple! He’s going to suffer an attack. He’s purple!”
The video shows officers then turning the unresponsive man over and performing CPR on him before he was taken to a hospital. He later died, the city government said in a statement.
“The causes of the death are related to a cardiac arrest resulting from risk factors,” the statement said. It described the man as being “between 40 and 45 years old” but did not name him because he did not have a document on him.
Police detained the man and several others around the capital’s iconic Obelisk as they tried to disperse the protest that had been called by several left-wing groups.
The death could spark anger ahead of the primaries Sunday in which Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta is one of the top two contenders to become the presidential candidate of the main opposition coalition.
“I want to highlight and fully support the actions of the city police, who acted professionally in containing the acts of violence,” the mayor said in a statement posted on social media.
The city Security and Justice Minister Eugenio Burzaco said in an interview with local channel América that when police tried to disperse protesters, the demonstrators responded “with sticks.”
“Following that, the police detained five aggressors, and after a few minutes, one of them began to experience a cardiac and respiratory arrest,” Burzaco said.
People at the scene identified the victim as Facundo Molares, a photographer. The protesters denied they tried to block the street or did anything to provoke police.
“We gathered to hold an assembly with our colleagues to discuss the country’s situation … we don’t know why (the police intervened). We didn’t do anything, we didn’t block the street. We weren’t violent, we didn’t do anything,” said one activist, Delia Delgado from the Teresa Rodríguez organization.
Activists massed around the Obelisk later in the day holding a large sign proclaiming “Facundo was murdered by the state.”
The death came as Argentines were reeling from the killing of an 11-year-old girl Wednesday during a snatch-and-grab robbery in a Buenos Aires suburb. Her death led all major political coalitions to cancel their final campaign rallies ahead of Sunday’s vote.
Associated Press writer Débora Rey contributed to this report.