Santiago Maldonado died as a result of drowning, the judge investigating the case confirmed Friday afternoon as a forensic medical board released an autopsy report. “The investigators arrived at certain unanimous conclusions, establishing the cause of death as drowning, submersion that was helped by hypothermia”, judge Gustavo Lleral told reporters.
The forensic medical board said Maldonado died from “asphyxia after being submerged” along with hypothermia. It also said that there is no evidence of body injuries. In a statement, his family urged for a “new phase” in the investigation and maintained their belief that Maldonado’s death was “forced disappearance followed by death,” an indication that they plan to stick to the argument that Gendarmerie (Border Guard) officers were responsible for his death on the basis that unless he feared for his life a young man like Maldonado, who did not know how to swim, would not throw himself into an icy river wearing 13 kilogrammes of clothing.
Maldonado went missing on August 1 near the Chubut river where the 29-yearold artisan’s body was later found.
Results of the autopsy were released today after investigators and interested parties, including the family and human rights groups, meet with Lleral. The young man’s body will now be returned to his family. Maldonado’s disappearance sparked a national outcry, with human rights group quickly pointing the finger at Gendarmerie officers who had responded with force to the road block Maldonado had participated in alongside a protesting community of indigenous Mapuches.
When his body was found 73 days later amid a tense stand-off and accusations that the case had been politicised, attention soon turned to the autopsy. Witnesses claim that Gendarmerie officers were firing at the protestors as they crossed the river, while one officer admitted to throwing a rock at a protester as the group fled.
The family has been highly critical of the government over its initial failures and alleged disinterest in the case, as well as Security Minister Patricia’s Bullrich quick defence of the Border Patrol officers whom she famously said she “refused to throw under the bus.”
President Mauricio Macri’s only contact with the family was a call to Maldonado’s mother two days before the October midterm election, as recordings began emerging of phone surveys questioning voters on how much the Maldonado affair would impact their vote.