It’s a new day, which means another day of updates in the case investigating Santiago Maldonado’s disappearance.
Today we have a federal prosecutor filing an accusation against the Macri administration for the way it’s handling the case; an official from the Chubut province’s administration contradicting statements from Marcos Peña and Patricia Bullrich over the role that the Security Ministry’s Cabinet Chief, Pablo Nocetti, played during the Border Patrol operation where Maldonado was last allegedly seen; and the revelation that an Intelligence agent was indicted for allegedly conducting a surveillance operation on members of the Mapuche indigenous community in 2015 without a warrant.
THE PROSECUTOR’S ACCUSATION
The most significant piece of news from yesterday had to do with the way in which the government has been dealing with the investigation: Federal Prosecutor Federico Delgado thinks there’s something going on here and formally requested to start an investigation aimed at determining whether the Macri administration and Border Patrol authorities covered up in any way the disappearance of the 28-year-old artisan.
President Macri, Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña, Justice and Security Ministers Germán Garavano and Patricia Bullrich, as well as her ministry’s Cabinet Chief Pablo Nocetti are all accused of overseeing the Border Patrol operation on August 1st, when Maldonado was last allegedly seen. Along with them are Gerardo Otero, who heads the Border Patrol, and other officials who have been accused of cover up, violations of a public official’s duties and abuse of authority.
Delgado Justified his decision in an interview with Radio Con Vos. “We have information that leads us to think that the authorities didn’t search [for Maldonado] properly and that’s called a cover-up. We’ve got to see what was done and what wasn’t in the search for Santiago. What was done well and what was done poorly,” he said.
“There are some elements such as the timeline and some other facts such as the need to make a decision in one way that was done in another. Or some things that weren’t done so a player in the events wouldn’t appear,” he added.
It’s fair to clarify that the officials haven’t been charged yet. It will be up to Federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral to determine whether it’s justifiable to open a formal investigation, aimed at gathering evidence that will later allow Delgado to decide whether to charge the accused or not.
PABLO NOCETTI’S ROLE IN THE OPERATION
This has been a highly disputed point, as his involvement would mean that Bullrich’s right-hand man was in charge of an operation in which a person allegedly disappeared at the hands of a federal security force. This is exactly what the Chubut province’s Minister of Government (the provincial term for the governor’s Cabinet Chief) Pablo Durán said yesterday.
In an interview with El Patagónico, Durán said that the “[provincial] police had nothing to do” with the operation that took place on August 1st. He admitted that the day before Border Patrol officers cleared the roadblock set up on Route 40, he met in Bariloche with his counterpart from the Río Negro province along with Border Patrol authorities. But said that the meeting was headed by Nocetti, who “designed the operation.”
This statement directly contradicts the version provided by President Macri’s Cabinet Chief, Marcos Peña, and Bullrich herself, who had previously assured that Nocetti only “stopped by” the place where the operation was being conducted because he just wanted to “say hi to an officer there.”
ILLEGAL INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS ON MAPUCHE COMMUNITY LEADERS
Maldonado’s disappearance brought up another issue to the forefront of the political conversation: the Mapuche Indigenous Community’s claim over lands in the Southern region of Argentina, which they consider to be theirs by historic right.
Outlet Tiempo Argentino yesterday revealed that a Federal Appeals Court with jurisdiction in Chubut three weeks ago confirmed the indictment of an intelligence agent for allegedly gathering information of roughly 30 social leaders who mostly belonged to the Mapuche community without a warrant to do so.
The agent allegedly began his activity in 2015 when members of the Mapuche community occupied a plot of land owned by Italian businessman Luciano Benetton, located in the district of Leleque. The agent would have provided three local prosecutors with intelligence— they were also indicted by the court — who were investigating the community members’ activities, so they would include it as evidence in their cases.
This operation was finished shortly after, but the Mapuche leaders continued to be investigated, this time legally and at the request of judicial authorities. According to La Nación, Maldonado was not among the leaders that the investigation’s records showed. IT makes sense: he only arrived to the city of El Bolsón early this year and, according to his family and people who testified before the judge, only had gone to the occupied land to support the community’s demands the day before he disappeared.