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Monday 23rd
posted by James Tweedie in World

Relatives of abducted activist demand to know what police were doing

RELATIVES of abducted Argentinian Santiago Maldonado demanded answers from authorities on Saturday after his body was found after almost three months.

The Maldonado family condemned President Mauricio Macri’s insensitivity in a phone call “after a silence of almost 80 days” and demanded a full account of police operations on the day of his disappearance.

On Friday, they identified a body pulled from the River Chubut in Patagonia on Tuesday as that of the missing young man after recognising tattoos on his corpse.

Following an autopsy that day, Judge Gustavo Lleral said the cause of death had not yet been determined.

“Beyond the inopportune moment chosen for his first call [on Saturday], after a silence of almost 80 days, it is important that the president assume that our only objective is to achieve justice for Santiago,” the family said in a statement.

They also demanded Security Minister Patricia Bullrich give a complete account of the police operation that led to his disappearance — and for an independent group of international experts be allowed to continue their own probe.

“Santiago was the victim of violent action that triggered his death,” they said.

“The attempt to discredit the investigation is a new affront to our pain, violates the prudence and respect demanded by the family.”

Mr Maldonado disappeared on August 1 after a confrontation with police at a protest in Chubut province, demanding the release of a jailed Mapuche indigenous leader and the return of ancestral land from Italian fashion giant Benetton.

Witnesses saw police beat and arrest Mr Maldonado after he and others blocked a road — but authorities never acknowledged his detention.

“Santiago has been the victim of violent action that triggered his death, so we must continue waiting for the conclusive results of the experts, ensuring that their work is done without any pressure.”

The case revived memories of thousands of “disappearances” during the 1976-83 dictatorship and has become a cause celebre across Latin America and beyond.

Venezuela’s government, against which Mr Macri has led regional attacks, sent its condolences to Mr Maldonado’s family in a statement.

It said it was deplorable that in present-day Argentina “just social protest is dealt with by methods reminiscent of the darkest episodes of repression and violation of human rights of the dictatorship era.”

It rejected “the dangerous resurgence of the disproportionate use of force, the persecution of indigenous peoples and forced disappearances for political reasons in the southern cone” of South America.