BUENOS AIRES – A body found earlier this week in a river in southern Argentina arrived on Thursday at the medical examiner’s office in Buenos Aires for tests to determine whether it is that of an activist missing since Aug. 1.
Judge Gustavo Lleral, who is overseeing the investigation of the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado, and a forensics expert working for the missing man’s family accompanied the body on the flight from Chubut province.
Maldonado, 28, was last seen during a protest by members of the Mapuche Indian community of Lof Cushamen near Esquel, Chubut.
Officers of the Gendarmeria border police broke up the demonstration.
The body undergoing examination in Buenos Aires was found Tuesday floating on the Chubut River near the scene of the Mapuche protest.
The expert hired by the family, Alejandro Inchaurregui, said on Wednesday that the clothing on the body matches the description of what Maldonado was wearing when he disappeared and that a document found in one of the pockets had his name on it.
He insisted, however, that DNA testing was needed to make a definitive identification.
The family took the same position during a press conference Wednesday in Esquel.
“I won’t say whether it’s Santiago or not because I can’t identify it,” the missing man’s brother, Sergio Maldonado, told reporters.
Attorney Veronica Heredia, who is representing the family, pointed out that the body was discovered along a stretch of river which authorities had searched on three previous occasions – most recently on Sept. 19 – without finding anything.
Thousands of people have turned out for rallies across Argentina to demand Maldonado’s safe return.
The case has led some to draw parallels with the 1976-1983 military regime, which “disappeared” some 30,000 people in the course of an acknowledged dirty war against the Argentine left.