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  • Thousands accompany Santiago Maldonado

    Thousands accompany Santiago Maldonado's family and demand justice for his murder and disappearance. | Photo: EFE

Published 5 January 2018

The only police officer indicted in the Santiago Maldonado case was promoted.

Police officer Emmanuel Echazu, who is the only person charged in the disappearance and death of Argentina's Indigenous Mapuche community activist Santiago Maldonado, has been promoted by the Argentine security ministry.

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Security Minister Patricia Bullrich signed Wednesday the order to promote the officer who was responsible for the repression against the Mapuche community that resulted in the young tattoo artist’s disappearance. According to the ministry “there is no impediment for the promotion.”

Maldonado was arrested during a protest in support of Argentina's Indigenous Mapuche community back in August. Echazu is part of the 36th El Bolson squad, which was linked to the crackdown on the Mapuche protest shortly before Maldonado disappeared. His disappearance had prompted an international outcry before his body was found 78 days later in the Chubut river, which had been searched several times before.

In November the results of an autopsy were released, concluding that the Indigenous activist drowned in the waters of the southern Chubut River in the South American country. 

His death, according to Judge Gustavo Leal, was caused by hypothermia as he "remained underwater." Lleral rejected last month a request from the prosecution to downgrade the line of investigation from “forced disappearance” to "dubious death."

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Echazu has admitted to participating in the crackdown operation and said he was hit with a stone before deciding to forcefully enter the Mapuche community.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri and his government has come under intense scrutiny over the use of excessive force against demonstrators in the Dec. 14-18 protests against pension reforms.

On December the Coordinator Against Police and Institutional Repression published a report warning that  "for the first time we exceeded the one dead per day mark related to trigger-happy or torture incidents. "The report also revealed that Argentina is “going through the most violent repressive peak since 1983."

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