Sunday, September 27, 2020

ARGENTINA | 24-11-2017 13:38

Maldonado case: Judge confirms drowning death

Autopsy results indicate the young artisan died of drowning and that his body suffered no physical violence other than the effects of drowning and its exposure to the environment of the Chubut river.

Santiago Maldonado died of drowning, the judge investigating the case confirmed yesterday.

"Maldonado died of drowning, having been submersed in the waters of the Chubut river, helped by hypothermia", judge Gustavo Llarel revealed. "The body remained in the water and was not moved".

In a statement, the family of the 29-year-old artisan called for a "new phase" in the investigation and indicated they intended to stick to their argument that the Border Patrol was responsible for Maldonado's death, on the basis that unless he feared for his life a young man who did not know how to swim would not throw himself into an icy river.

At the time he entered the river, Maldonado was wearing 13 kilograms of clothing,  investigators claim.

The autopsy was released Friday afternoon after investigators and interested parties, including the family and human rights groups, meet with Lleral.

Human rights and politics

Maldonado’s disappearance sparked a national outcry over the alleged abuses of the armed forces, with human rights group quickly pointing the finger at the Border Patrol 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 70 days later amid a tense stand-off and accusations that the case had been politicised, attention soon turned to the autopsy.

Leaked results indicated the body had not suffered any physical abuse aside from the natural effects of the drowning and subsequent time spent under water.

Witnesses claim that Border Patrol 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.

Family vs. government

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 himself was criticized for only making contact with the family was a call from an unregistered phone line to Maldonado’s mother two days before the October mid-term election, at the same time as recordings began emerging of phone surveys questioning voters on how much the Maldonado affair would impact their vote.

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