Thousands of people have been demonstrating in front of the presidential palace in Buenos Aires to demand that the government of President Mauricio Macri “return” Santiago Maldonado, an activist who has been missing since August 1.
This was the biggest of several protests in the last two days over what human rights campaigners are calling "the first disappearance" of the Macri presidency. It was called by an array of organizations, including the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights.
The demonstrators shouted their traditional slogan, "He was taken alive, we want him back alive now!" They said they hold the Argentinian state solely responsible for the disappearance of Maldonado, and rejected remarks by the minister of security and the president who both denied that the police played any part in the case of the young indigenous rights activist.
On Thursday, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, a group of Argentine women whose children disappeared during previous military dictatorships, also marched to demand Maldonado's return.
“We want to embrace Santiago again and make sure that all officials responsible for the disappearance go to jail,” the organization said in a statement.
Hebe de Bonafini, a leader of the group and rally organizer, blamed Argentine police forces and the government for his disappearance.
Maldonado vanished after a military police raid on an Indigenous Mapuche community in Cushamen, Chubut Province.
Hebe in Congress accompanying the family of Santiago Maldonado, disappeared by the police.
Estela de Carlotto: "We are gathered to demand the appearance of Santiago."
Witnesses say they saw officers push the 28-year-old into a van and drive away. Maldonado's family also blamed the military police for his disappearance.
“The disappearance of Santiago takes us back to dark times that we can't allow ourselves to return to,” march organizers said.
The Mothers described Macri's government as “the enemy of the people” and said that “its practices are similar to those of a dictatorship, which this disappearance fully confirms.”
“We will wait for you!” the Mothers said in a statement.
"A sad and gray afternoon. #SantiagoMaldonado was kidnapped by Gendarmería. The government conceals the fact. Bring back Santiago now."
"We are all in Plaza de Mayo because Santiago has disappeared and we demand that we want Santiago Maldonado alive."
Argentine rock musician, Fito Paez, joined the chorus of support for the Mapuche leader, expressing his solidarity by publishing a video on his social media networks in which he pleaded for the appearance of Santiago, and where he called on Argentines to attend Friday's march.