Family confirms body found in Argentina river was missing activist

The case has embroiled President Mauricio Macri’s government in a political storm

15:29 October 21, 2017

BUENOS AIRES: A body recovered from a river bed in southern Argentina was that of a missing activist who disappeared two months ago during a police operation, his brother confirmed Friday.

Santiago Maldonado, a 28-year-old tattoo artist, was last seen being detained by paramilitary police as they moved to disperse a protest march by the Mapuche indigenous group in Chabut, Patagonia on August 1.

The case has embroiled President Mauricio Macri’s government in a political storm and revived dark memories of the country’s years of dictatorship and the forced disappearances of opponents.

His elder brother Sergio said the body has now been identified, and that the family blamed authorities for his death.

“We were able to look at the body, what we recognised were Santiago’s tattoos, so we are convinced that it is him,” he said, speaking at the gates of the morgue in Buenos Aires where an autopsy was due to be performed.

“The autopsy will take place in a few days and we will get further confirmation,” added Sergio.

Both government and opposition parties had earlier suspended campaigning for legislative elections on Sunday.

Prosecutor Silvia Avila said the body, found 300 meters from where Maldonado was last seen, was wearing clothing that bore a resemblance to Maldonado’s.

Maldonado’s family has accused the police of being behind the disappearance.

Their lawyer Victoria Heredia told reporters that the body was found in a place where it “was visible to the naked eye. We don’t understand why it should appear in an area that had already been swept three times.”

The body was found entangled in roots in the bed of a river that traverses ancestral lands sold to Italian businessman Luciano Benetton but which is claimed by the Mapuche.

Macri has made no comment on the finding of the body and on Tuesday sent his Human Rights Minister Claudio Avruj to Chabut, where his car was stoned by protesters.