A week after Sergio Maldonado confirmed that a body found in the Chubut River belonged to his brother, the family of the late 28-yearold have called for a protest under the slogan: “The government is responsible.”
While initial autopsy reports indicated Santiago Maldonado’s body showed no signs of physical injury, and that it had large amounts of water in its lungs, Judge Gustavo Lleral hasn’t closed the investigation, as the cause of death hasn’t been precisely determined.
The excessively politicised search for Santiago Maldonado, who was missing for 78 days, came to a climax less than 48 hours before Argentines held midterm elections last week. Though campaigning was suspended before the vote, the results pushed coverage of the case to the sidelines, after two months of media storm. After Judge Lleral, who is investigating whether Santiago was the victim of a forced disappearance, told reporters the body showed no wounds.
Leaked autopsy reports emerged suggesting suggested death by asphyxiation, indicating he may have drowned in the aftermath of the violent dispersion by the Gendarmerie of a Mapuche roadblock on August 1. It could take another week for the full results of the autopsy, which involved the presence of 55 professionals including representatives from the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (APDH) and the Gendarmerie.
As has been the norm, conflicting reports helped muddy the waters throughout the week. Newspapers reported the existence of a young Mapuche community member — dubbed “Witness E” — who had reportedly been in direct contact with Maldonado in Cushamen, Chubut, the day before his disappearance.
In testimony to the ADPH, “Witness E” said he was with Santiago as the Gendarmerie entered Pu Lof territory, prompting them to try to escape by crossing a river. At that time, Maldonado, who reportedly didn’t know how to swim, is said to have told “E” to go ahead and hid in bushes, after which he was apprehended, beaten, and taken in a vehicle.
Judge Lleral was forced to clarify the situation this week, noting E “doesn’t exist in our investigation,” adding,“[E] has never had contact with me or my aides,” Lleral also said there had been no calls from the Mapuche community indicating a body had surfaced, confirming that he was responsible for ordering the last round of searches.
Yesterday, Sergio Maldonado tried to keep the pressure ont. At a press conference held at Amnesty International’s Argentine offices, he blamed Esquel medical professionals for leaking pictures of Santiago’s body, while claiming that the Gendarmerie’s violent actions had caused his brother’s death and calling for an “impartial” invesgiation.