A new case of enforced disappearance in Argentina has caught the attention of the international community. 28-year-old protester Santiago Maldonado went missing on 1 August when gendarmerie, a federal security force, broke up a protest in Cushemen, southern Argentina. Indigenous community known as “mapuches” where protesting on lands rights and the liberation of their leader, Jones Huala, when security forces repressed the protest violently. Several witnesses have claimed to see security agents beating up a man and forcing someone into a van that could have been Santiago.
Enforced disappearance committed by police agents is the lead hypothesis so far. This has cause a major political crisis to Mauricio Marci’s office, who was elected president in October of 2015. Whereas Maldonado has been missing for two months now, it took government a month to recognize the misconduct of police forces and the repression the indigenous community has suffered last August.
The suspected participation of polices forces on Santiago’s disappearance caused a massive protest in Buenos Aires on 1 September which ended with 23 citizens injured and randomly detained by police officers.
Argentina has been dealing with the misconduct of arm and polices forces since democracy was re-establish in 1983. Unfortunately, Santiago Maldonado’s disappearance is not the first during democracy. Journalism student Miguel Bru disappeared in 1993, after suffering several harassments from polices agents. Luciano Arruga, who was only 16 years old, refused to committed robbery for police officers and went missing for five years until he was found buried in a cemetery without any trace of identity. In 2006, Jorge Julio López disappeared after testifying in trial against responsible for crimes against humanity, former police officer Miguel Etchecotlatz.
While human rights organizations in Argentina have been devoted to this cause day and night, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed their concern about the slow progress of investigations in Argentina. International demands about the whereabouts of Santiago Maldonado forced President Mauricio Macri to make a public statement on the case, while his security minister, Patricia Bullrich, has been highly questioned for backing up in Congress suspected police agents.
Midterm elections are a month away, and Marci’s office is trying to soften the impact of the case on the results. In the meantime, Argentinian society has only one question: Where is Santiago Maldonado?