New findings in the investigation surrounding Santiago Maldonado’s disappearance continue to surface, although most of them are either false leads, “evidence” that leads nowhere or that’s not clear enough to make some progress.
Yesterday was no exception. First, after undergoing a DNA test, we learned that what some thought could have been Santiago’s blood turned out to belong someone else, rebuking one of the theories being considered by investigators; new images of the operation conducted by border patrol on August 1 surfaced, showing the previous hours to the time when witnesses say they saw Maldonado there for the last time; and President Mauricio Macri issued a statement that was more than a couple of words since the case became national news.
Let’s tackle them one by one.
THE DNA TEST RESULTS
As mentioned, perhaps the more far fetched theory being pursued by investigators was rebuked yesterday. In the last few weeks, some maintained that Maldonado was working with the Mapuche indigenous community way before August 1, the day of his disappearance.
They said that, in fact, he was an active participant in the violent protests led by a group within the community — to so-called Mapuche Ancestral Resistance (RAM) — which resorts to violence to demand the land they claim is theirs by historic right. So much so that they said on July 21 Maldonado was part of an attack to a guard post located in this plot of land, owned by Italian businessman Luciano Benetton
However, the person guarding the post, called Evaristo Jones, heard the attackers get close. He waited for them with a knife, and managed to hurt one of the attackers. However, since it was the middle of the night and they entered the place with their faces covered, he was never able to know their identity or identify them later.
The officials in charge of the investigation speculated with the possibility that the wounded attacker was Maldonado, arguing that he could be hidden inside Mapuche territory waiting to heal, or dead as a result of the wound. However, Jones said that the stab could not have been very deep because otherwise the person would not have been able to escape.
The investigators backed up this theory on the fact that one of Maldonado’s cell phones last registered activity on that day, and sent Jones’ blood-stained shirt to UBA’s school of biochemistry to run a DNA test and check whether it was Maldonado’s.
Now two theories remain on the table: one says that the Border Patrol was behind his disappearance — like witnesses from the operation and Maldonado’s family members assure — or that he decided to go incognito for reasons unknown.
NEW IMAGES OF THE BORDER PATROL OPERATION SURFACE
Yesterday, La Nación posted a new video showing the beginning of the operation in which Border Patrol officers cleared the roadblock staged by members of the Mapuche indigenous community on national Route 40 that ended with Maldonado’s disappearance.
However, the images don’t show the officers entering the community neither when the Mapuches cross the Chubut river to escape them, a crucial moment in which Maldonado was allegedly last seen. If there are no recordings of this period of time, which began at 5:50 PM of August 1 — more than six hours after the video — it will be much harder for the investigators to determine if Border Patrol used excessive force and/or took the 28-year-old artisan.
You can watch the videos here.
MACRI ADDRESSES THE CASE
The President has been criticized for not having said much about the case, when the it’s clearly the issue that has been driving the national conversation. The only time when he addressed it was on August 11, when he said the government was working “day and night to find out what happened.”
During the weekend, Maldonado’s brother, Sergio, again took on Macri for this reason, saying that “if he wants, I’ll send him his [Santiago’s] birth certificate so he can see that he exists, that he was born. Everyone is asking about my brother and he’s the only one who doesn’t. He’s got to open his eyes a bit.”
In a somewhat dismissive tone, Macri discussed the issue twice in different, brief contacts with the press yesterday evening and this morning. On Monday, he again said that “the government is working and collaborating with the investigation as much as possible.”
This morning he said that “the government is working on the issue, being at the judiciary’s service, like we have to, without preconceptions, without ruling out any theory, assisting the way it’s done in a democratic country so the judge and the prosecutor have all the support to continue with the investigation.”
“We have to be extremely prudent, we don’t prejudge, we let the judge move forwards like he’s supposed to, with absolute freedom. We will maintain this position because this is what needs to happen in this era. I’m worried and I am making sure that every day I am updated with information,” he concluded.