Santiago Maldonado's family members questioned the motives behind an Argentine judge's order to search the Mapuche community of Pu Lof in Resistance in Cushamen to look for traces of the young man who went missing on Aug. 1.
“I heard about the raid and they didn't notify me about this procedure. They have to look elsewhere for Santiago, not in the Mapuche community,” said Maldonado's brother, Sergio during a telephone interview on AM750.
He questioned the motives behind the decision to conduct the search on Indigenous land. “Why are they going to look for him in that place now? Why didn't they do it before?” He admitted that his greatest fear is that authorities would “toss him (Maldonado) inside there and invent any type of story.”
Federal Judge Guido Otranto was interviewed last week by La Nacion newspaper where he claimed, “Maldonado drowned in the river, according to the analysis of evidence,” in his possession. He also noted that it is the “most reasonable” possibility and that he couldn't find any “convincing” evidence that he had been “captured by the Gendarmerie (military police).”
Santiago's family members characterized his statements as being “inappropriate” for they implied, without having concluded the investigation into Maldonado's whereabouts, that he was already dead.
Maldonado disappeared during a military police eviction of the Indigenous Mapuche people in Cushamen, where they have been demanding that the government return land handed over to Italian clothing company Benetton.
Matias Santana is one of several eyewitnesses who claim that Argentina's military police detained Maldonado during the raid. He asserted that he was able to identify the activist because he was wearing a jacket that he lent him.
The Maldonado family has supported the claim.
Despite centuries of resistance, the Mapuche people are still struggling to maintain their lands and have their ancestral rights recognized by the Argentine government.