After several days of significant revelations, there were not many — or any, actually — relevant updates in the Santiago Maldonado case on Wednesday:
- The Border Patrol (gendarmerie) officers who took part in the operation conducted on August 1, when the 28-year-old tattoo artist was last allegedly seen, continued to testify before Federal Judge Guido Otranto and Prosecutor Silvina Ávila about their actions during the events.
- A member of the Mapuche indigenous community refused to provide the names of the protesters who staged the roadblock on Route 40 — who could be potential witnesses of the moment when Maldonado was put in a BP pick-up truck, as one theory suggests — arguing she first had to “consult it” with the Center of Legal and Social Studies (CELS), involved in the case.
- And this morning, Maldonado’s family members requested Judge Otranto be recused — or in non-legal terms, “removed” — from the investigation. His brother, Sergio, told the press that neither him nor Ávila “are doing anything to find Santiago and haven’t done anything since day one. I don’t know why.” An appeals court will determine whether to uphold their request.
However, there were some news yesterday, which, even though they didn’t provide any significant update to the investigation, did serve another purpose: to illustrate how obsessed the media and public opinion have become this case and how this can be detrimental to it.
Around 1 PM yesterday, the media was abuzz reporting that the forces in charge of the search operation being conducted in the Chubut river had announced they were going to do an excavation in an area where there was a “strange movement of soil,” 16 kilometers away from the Mapuche community. In case you forgot, members of different security forces began an exhaustive search for Maldonado in the 800-kilometer-long river last Friday.
Unsurprisingly, everyone started to speculate about the possibility that Maldonado was buried beneath there and the case was about to be solved.
There was nothing.
“The operation produced nothing. Nothing was found. The lead that was followed because of this has been ruled out,” a member of the investigation told La Nación. The levels of expectation that grew surrounding this moment – and the disappointment that followed after – only served to raise a question: was it really necessary to report that forces were going to remove the earth from a sector of the riverbank, instead of waiting and only publishing something about it if there was indeed relevant information to tell to the country?
However, it doesn’t seem like this amateurism will change any time soon. After reporting the results — or lack thereof — of this operation, media outlets went on to predict the results of an analysis conducted on the cellphones of 120 Border Patrol officers who in one way or another took part in August 1’s operation.
La Nación’s wrote about it saying that “today might be a key day for the investigation over the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado.” Clarín, on its end, said that “the only thing that has surfaced so far is the existence of a particular message that could ‘sound strange.'”
The only thing we know so far is that investigators from the Federal Police gave Prosecutor Ávila a large number of files showing the content of the text messages that officers sent each other in key dates for the investigation, as well as the calls they made.
More important seems to be the report about the phones’ locations, as it will show in what sector of the Mapuche community BP officials — or at least their phones — were at the moment when Maldonado was last allegedly seen.
Again, expectations are high. And we still no nothing.