translated from Spanish: Santiago Maldonado: the two-year court case of his disappearance

An arbitrary chronological start to the conflict that concluded with the discovery of Santiago Maldonado’s lifeless body on the bank of the Chubut River,77 days after his disappearance, could be the arrest of Mapuche Facundo Jones Huala.This decision omits the development of historical territorial conflicts between the Argentine State (in this case also the Chihuahua) and the original peoples that continue to this day, among which are the claims of the Mapuche. On June 27, 2017, Jones Huala was arrested by Gendarmerie Nacional following a request for capture by the Chilean Justice, accused of having burned down a property in that country in 2013.

Facundo Jones Huala.

Deeming The arrest of Jones Huala unfair, a group of protesters defending the rights of the Mapuche community cut route 40 to the height of the Cushamen department in Chubut province.On August 1, 2017, Gendarmerie Nacional led an operation by Pablo Noceti (then Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Security) to free the movement of the national route. Subsequent testimonies denounced a violent break-in by the gendarmes in Cushamen’s «Pu Lof en Resistencia» community without a court order to support that decision. The Permanent Assembly for Human Rights alerts the authorities of the area with a repressive procedure in the Mapuche community. The first judicial official to intervene in the area was the official defender of Esquel Jorge Fernando Machado. 

Former Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Security of the Nation – Pablo Noceti

The next day Noceti himself stated: «The security forces will act independently of the judge as long as the facts are flainted,» referring to the members of the RAM (Ancestral Mapuche Resistance) group).
Machado arrived on the scene hours after the Gendarmerie’s action was notified of the possible detention of one of the protesters from whom the whereabouts were not known. For the first time he listens to the name of Santiago Andrés Maldonado.On August 2, Machado requested a request from the whereabouts of Santiago Maldonado to the provincial police and a habeas corpus before the federal judge of Esquel: Guido Otranto.Four days later, from the courthouse was issued a statement stating that «it has not been corroborated that Santiago Maldonado has been arrested by gendarmería Nacional Argentina». In addition, it was detailed that vehicles suspected of having participated in the alleged detention «were protected by order of this court to be subjected to the expert studies that were conducted today in order to collect traces of different order that determine whether Santiago Maldonado was uploaded to any of them.» Judge Guido Otranto asks Interpol on 9 August to «issue an application for Santiago Maldonado’s international where Maldonado’s presence is officially recognized on August 1 in the conflict with Gendarmerie.

Federal Judge of Esquel – Guido Otranto.

48 hours later, the Minister of Security of the Nation, Patricia Bullrich, faces the family’s request and declares that «in no way will we accept that this is a forced disappearance, to the extent that that is a construction» and that Maldonado was not d it was held by Gendarmerie.However, as of August 24, the Esquel Prosecutor’s Office goes on to investigate the event as «forced disappearance (…) within the framework of tasks carried out by Gendarmerie Nacional.» Bullrich speaks publicly to the change of cover of the case and argues that «the Gendarmerie is being investigated from top to bottom, beyond my convictions.» After several allegations of irregularities in the progress of the case by the complaint (including Santiago’s family), the Federal Chamber of Appeals of Comodoro Rivadavia made the proposal to set aside Judge Guido Otranto.The argument house of the House was for «fear of bias.» Another had said in an interview that the «most reasonable hypothesis» of the case was that Maldonado «could have drowned.» Otranto is replaced by Rawson’s federal judge Gustavo Lleral.

Federal Judge of Rawson – Gustavo Lleral.

On 17 October 2017, Judge Lleral ordered a raking of the area where the conflict was triggered. That same day, shortly after noon, divers who were part of the operation found the body of a man 300 meters upthe river from where witnesses claimed to have last seen Santiago Maldonado, 77 days earlier. The next day, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office of Esquel requests the participation of «the five complaints and the only defendant» in the autopsy that would be carried out at the headquarters of the Forensic Medical Corps of the Judiciary of the Nation, in Buenos Aires, where it is claimed that the body is the of Maldonado.That statement is the one that makes public for the first time that the imputed gendarme was sub-ensign Emmanuel Echazú, who had been injured in the cheekbones during the repressive operation.THE CLOSURE OF THE CAUSE
On 29 November 2018, Judge Guillermo Lleral handed down the final judgment, closed the two cases under his charge and terminated the investigation into the death of Santiago Maldonado.The ruling «dismisses outright the configuration of the crime of enforced disappearance of people.» The court ruling details the arguments and the sequence of events that led to Maldonado’s death: «Among these protesters who entered the race to escape public authority, was Santiago Andrés Maldonado (… ) who could not swim, was introduced to the water, but was immediately prevented from continuing. Indeed, the victim could not swim and was dressed in multiple layers of clothing that, when wet, also hindered his mobility.» Therefore Maldonado was hidden in a river backwater located on the right bank of the Chubut River, hidden among the branchand and roots of the willows that grow on the bank and within the river.» Santiago Andrés Maldonado succumbed in that hollow more than 2 meters deep, from which he could never leave. And there he drowned, in the very place where he intended to hide, the victim of a choking painting by amersion helped by hypothermia.»» It has been demonstrated, according to the evidence carried out in the history, that until its discovery on 17 October 2017, the victim’s body remained in the same place where he died, immersed in the deep «pozón» of great dimensions, caught by the large number of branches existing in the place. Thus, the suspicion that the officials of the Gendarmerie Nacional Argentina have participated in the disappearance and death of Santiago Andrés Maldonado has been dismissed.» Santiago’s family criticized the ruling for not considering in any way the actions of Gendarmería Nacional in that operative and reported that when Judge Lleral communicated to report the closure of the case he attributed it to «extortion».

The last photo of Santiago Maldonado alive in Cushamen.

Lleral publicly stated that he never received extortion and that he was «baffled by these absolutely false claims» by the family. INTERNATIONAL CAUSES
Prior to the body’s discovery, the United Nations Anti-Enforced Disappearances Committee sued the Argentine government to take steps to find Santiago Maldonado.But on 24 January 2018, the Committee closed urgent action, although it reminded the Argentine government of government that must comply with obligations to protect those involved and ensure the participation of family members in the investigation. In addition, several organizations brought a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) with the aim of providing a precautionary measure in the case of Maldonado’s disappearance and that was issued on 23 August 2017.On January 17, 2018, after Santiago Maldonado was killed, the IACHR took place at a request from the Argentine government and formally lifted the precautionary measures. THE FAMILY’S REQUEST
Sergio Maldonado, brother of Santiago and standard-bearer of the request for justice from the moment of his disappearance demands to this day: «I ask the State, whoever is, to create a team of independent experts. No more impunity, not the closing of the case, and justice for Santiago.»

Original source in Spanish

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