BUENOS AIRES – The body found earlier this week in southern Argentina’s Chubut River is that of an activist who went missing Aug. 1, his brother said on Friday.
Santiago Maldonado, 28, was last seen fleeing officers of the Gendarmeria border police who broke up a demonstration by Mapuche Indians near Esquel in Chubut province.
“It’s Santiago,” the activist’s brother, Sergio Maldonado, said outside the medical examiner’s office in Buenos Aires, where the process of definitively identifying the body began earlier Friday.
“From now on, what we are going to ask is that you have respect for my family because we need to be calmer,” Sergio said, addressing reporters. “We were able to look at the body. What we recognized were Santiago’s tattoos, so we convinced that it’s Santiago.”
Friday’s activity at the medical examiner’s office was limited to the visual examination of the body, Sergio Maldonado said.
“Now begins the work of the experts, the autopsy. And in a few days there will be the final result with the DNA samples and the real confirmation,” he said.
The body was found Tuesday floating on the Chubut River near the scene of the Mapuche protest.
Attorney Veronica Heredia, representing the Maldonado 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.