The country is collectively holding its breath since yesterday afternoon, after security forces announced that a lifeless body had been found in the Chubut river, close to the area where Santiago Maldonado had last been seen.
Some media outlets and journalists confirmed at night that it was indeed the body of the 28-year-old tattoo artist. However, in a press release issued this morning, his family denied the information and indicated that “it’s still not possible to establish the body’s identity.” The release goes on to say that, “until the pertinent procedures are not conducted, it won’t be able to establish the identity nor the cause of death,” and requested that “the difficult moment the family is going through be respected.” Santiago Maldonado’s brother, Sergio, went yesterday to the judicial morgue the body had been taken to, but left without talking to press.
The magnitude of the news – whether the body ends up being Maldonado’s or not – sent the investigation straight back to the public eye, place where it hadn’t been for the last couple of weeks. The country is following the case closely, waiting the body’s identity to be confirmed.
The only official information regarding the body’s characteristics we have so far came from Federal Prosecutor Silvina Ávila, who said “it’s male” and that the color of his clothes are light blue, “like the witnesses [who assured Maldonado was at the Mapuche indigenous community on that fateful August 1] said.”
According to Infobae, the body will be put in a special plane and taken to Buenos Aires to be identified, due to the high degree of decomposition it presents. Federal Judge Gustavo Lleral is waiting for Maldonado’s family to authorize the decision to announce it officially. One of the main reasons for this decision is the fact that Buenos Aires’ morgue counts with better equipment to undertake this task and conduct an autopsy after.
But even though the country is paralyzed waiting for more news, the body’s identity won’t be determined immediately. In a radio interview, renowned forensic expert Enrique Prueger indicated that a “categorical genetic result” that will allow to determine it will take “less than ten days. [i.e not today, or tomorrow.]”
If it ends up being Maldonado, Judge Lleral will proceed to seek answers to other key questions: how did he die; whether he was beat and if so, by whom; why wasn’t he found before, considering the Chubut river had been swept twice before yesterday, but with unfruitful results.
Security forces tasked with sweeping the river argued that this operation was different because they used dogs trained to search for human remains in water and because members of the Mapuche community allowed them to look sweep an area that they hadn’t before.
However, representative of the indigenous community Soraya Maicoño assured today that the body was “planted,” as “it wasn’t there two or three days ago.” “We would have seen it, because it’s a place we go to often to get water,” she said in a radio interview.
Organization Memoria Verdad y Justicia called to a march today at 6 PM, arguing that “the government and the state are responsible” for Maldonado’s fate. However, human rights organizations close to the investigation and Maldonado’s family asked for “prudence” and to wait until the family makes an announcement. “The organizations respect the family’s decision, that’s why we can’t call for anything until they do so,” said leader of Madres de Plaza de Mayo Linea Fundadora, Taty Almeida in a radio interview.
We will update this article as new developments surface.