Another day, another revelation in the Santiago Maldonado case that raises even more questions about the actions taken by Border Patrol officers during the operation where the 28-year-old tattoo artist was last allegedly seen.
In this case, analysis conducted on the phones that belong to these officials revealed today that one of them sent an audio message to his or her superior saying that they “shot at them [the protesters] a couple of times,” and “that would serve them right.” The audio doesn’t clarify whether they shot rubber or led bullets, but does further confirm that there were clashes between the forces and the protesters.
This official is one of the eight who are under a heavier scrutiny than the rest of the squad involved in the operation, as they were the ones who went after the members of the Mapuche community who ended up crossing the Chubut river to escape them. Since this is a rather uneven terrain — full of bushes and trees — their actions can’t be accounted for by the other members of the squad.
Border Patrol’s initial alibi, provided by the high ranking officials who were in the operation, had denied having any contact with the protesters. This was proved false over and over during the last days. Let’s take a look at all of the new evidence that contradicts this.
Last week, an officer called Neri Robledo admitted to having hit a protester “with a rock” when he was swimming across the river to escape the raid, but said the strike “wasn’t deadly” because he saw that “once he reached the other side, the person stood up and insulted him.” However, the same analysis revealed earlier this week that an officer got a text message with the advice to make sure to not be involved in the “rock issue.”
The next day, another official came forward and acknowledged that he shot his “anti-mutiny” shotgun — which shoots rubber bullets — in the direction of a protester. The official, whose identity remains unknown, said that he had strayed from the rest of his squad when he took the shot, but that he aimed at the ground and didn’t hit the protester.
This weekend, Corporal Andrés Ahumada said that he was carrying a firearm when he entered the community. This directly contradicts the force’s initial version, which assured this hadn’t been the case.Ahumada’s lawyer justified his actions by saying that he drove a truck during the operation and that “it’s an obligation for drivers to carry a firearm to provide safety to those who are unarmed.”
And yesterday, a police officer from the Río Negro province provided new information to his superiors which, if true, would prove that the force lied about not having used firearms during the operation.
The officer, whose identity hasn’t been disclosed, told his superiors that during a search operation aimed at finding traces of Maldonado in the Mapuche community that took place on August 16, he found 9mm and FAL rifle bullet casings, but that Federal Prosecutor Silvina Ávila refused to consider them as evidence because “it wasn’t what they were looking for.” We’ll see if any of this leads to something.