6 months after Argentine submarine went missing, families feel 'invisible'

PHOTO: Workers prepare the motor vessel Sophie Siem for the installation of the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System to support the search and rescue efforts ARA San Juan in Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina, on Nov. 26, 2017.
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WATCH Rescue crews face false leads in search for missing submarine

Tuesday marks six months since the last communication was received from an Argentine submarine that vanished into the murky depths of the South Atlantic Ocean.

For the families of the 44 missing crew members of the ARA San Juan, these six months have afforded little in the way of answers to their many questions: What happened? Who's responsible? What was the mission of the San Juan on that fateful voyage? Where is the wreckage? Where are the bodies of their loved ones?

Families complain they have been treated poorly by the government and naval officials since the beginning of their traumatic experience, and say President Mauricio Macri and Defense Minister Oscar Aguad have avoided meeting with them.

PHOTO: Workers prepare the motor vessel Sophie Siem for the installation of the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System to support the search and rescue efforts ARA San Juan in Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina, on Nov. 26, 2017.
<p itemprop= " onerror="this.src='http://a.abcnews.com/images/International/argentina-submarine-search-gty-jpo-171128_4x3_992.jpg'" />US Navy/AFP via Getty Images
Workers prepare the motor vessel Sophie Siem for the installation of the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System to support the search and rescue efforts ARA San Juan in Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina, on Nov. 26, 2017.

"It's almost as if the government considers us as their enemies," Luis Tagliapietra, father of missing crewman Damian Tagliapietra, told ABC News. "The government, I don't know if they have something to hide or are just incompetent. But they have not done anything to answer our many questions."

"They want to make us invisible," added Isabel Polo, the sister of crew member Daniel Alejandro Polo. "The families have had to go about their lives on their own without really any assistance from the government."

PHOTO: An undated handout photo made available by the Argentine Navy shows the ARA San Juan submarine that disappeared off Argentinas coast with a crew of 44. Argentina Navy/EPA
An undated handout photo made available by the Argentine Navy shows the ARA San Juan submarine that disappeared off Argentina's coast with a crew of 44.

The 44 crew members are still receiving their paychecks as they are considered legally alive until their bodies can be found or until the government decrees that they are legally deceased -- something that has not occurred, much to the families' consternation. Other matters such as life insurance, pensions and even accessing private bank accounts have been shelved until the submarine is found or the crew members are declared dead.

A one-time hardship payment to family members of about $15 in January was scoffed at and derided by loved ones.

PHOTO: An undated handout photo made available by the Argentine Navy on Nov. 17, 2017 shows the ARA San Juan submarine.Argentine Navy Handout/EPA
An undated handout photo made available by the Argentine Navy on Nov. 17, 2017 shows the ARA San Juan submarine.

The search, which early on involved more than a dozen countries and up to 30 specialized planes and ships, has basically been suspended since mid-January. Nine foreign companies have answered an international bid on a government contract for private expeditions to locate the vessel. However, that bid process has been delayed by bureaucratic snafus and renegotiating certain technical aspects of the bid terms.

The search area -- calculated from the last known point of communication and given variables such as air supply, ocean currents, etc. -- is 186,297 square miles, an area the size of Spain and the ocean depths within that zone range from 900 to more than 10,000 feet.

PHOTO: A relative of missing Argentine submarine crew member Celso Oscar Vallejos kneels down to pray, outside Argentinas Navy base in Mar del Plata, on the Atlantic coast south of Buenos Aires, on Nov. 25, 2017. Alfonsina Tain/AFP via Getty Images
A relative of missing Argentine submarine crew member Celso Oscar Vallejos kneels down to pray, outside Argentina's Navy base in Mar del Plata, on the Atlantic coast south of Buenos Aires, on Nov. 25, 2017.

There are two federal courts investigating the San Juan accident. Marta Yañez, the federal judge in Patagonia in southern Argentina who is in charge of the main investigation did not respond to requests to speak with ABC News. However, someone close to the court investigation said that although dozens of witnesses from the navy and from the defense ministry have been questioned, the case is expected to last at least through the end of the year.

PHOTO: Women look at family pictures of missing Argentine submarine crew member Cesar Oscar Vallejos, hanging outside Argentinas Navy base in Mar del Plata, on the Atlantic coast south of Buenos Aires, on Nov. 24, 2017.
<p itemprop= " onerror="this.src='http://a.abcnews.com/images/International/argentina-submarine-search-gty-02-jpo-171128_4x3_992.jpg'" />Eitan Abramovich/AFP via Getty Images
Women look at family pictures of missing Argentine submarine crew member Cesar Oscar Vallejos, hanging outside Argentina's Navy base in Mar del Plata, on the Atlantic coast south of Buenos Aires, on Nov. 24, 2017.

Another case in the federal courts of Buenos Aires involves the allegations that the government spied on some of the families, which Luis Tagliapietra said was proven by expert analysis of telephone and email interferences that occurred in the past few months.

PHOTO: Relatives of those missing on Argentinas ARA San Juan submarine gathered on May 11, 2018, to express their discontent with the Argentine government and navy. Joe Goldman/ABC News
Relatives of those missing on Argentina's ARA San Juan submarine gathered on May 11, 2018, to express their discontent with the Argentine government and navy.

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