Body thought to be missing activist found in Argentina

 18 Oct 2017 - 21:29

Body thought to be missing activist found in Argentina
This file photo taken on September 01, 2017 shows people surrounding a portrait painted on the street of Santiago Maldonado --disappeared on August 1st during a Mapuche protest in Chubut province-- during a demonstration called by human rights associations asking for his whereabouts, at Plaza de Mayo square in Buenos Aires on September 1, 2017. AFP / Juan Mabromata


Buenos Aires:  Argentine political parties suspended campaigning for legislative elections Wednesday after the discovery of a body thought to be that of a missing activist who disappeared two months ago during a police operation.

Rights groups say Santiago Maldonado, 27, was last seen being detained by paramilitary police as they moved to disperse a protest march by the Mapuche indigenous group in Chabut, Patagonia on August 1.

The case has embroiled President Mauricio Macri's government in a political storm and revived dark memories of the country's years of dictatorship and the forced disappearances of opponents.

Both government and opposition parties suspended camaigning for legislative elections Sunday as the body was being brought to Buenos Aires for formal identification and an autopsy at the request of the Maldonado family.

Prosecutor Silvia Avila said the body, found 300 meters (yards) from where Maldonado was last seen, was wearing clothing that bore a resemblance to Maldonado's.

Maldonado's family has accused the police of being behind the disappearance after he was seen being put into a police van.

The body was being transferred for autopsy to Buenos Aires at the request of the family, their lawyer Victoria Heredia told reporters.

"The family is asking for precautions to be taken" over how and where the body is stored until an autopsy is carried out, she said.

The lawyer said that the body was found in a place where it "was visible to the naked eye. We don't understand why it should appear in an area that had already been swept three times."

The body was found entangled in roots in the bed of a river that traverses ancestral lands sold to Italian businessman Luciano Benetton but is claimed by the Mapuche.

The family called for privacy in a statement. "It is not possible to establish either the identity or the cause of death until the experts have completed their work. We are asking that our privacy be respected at this difficult time."

Macri has made no comment on the finding of the body and on Tuesday sent his Human Rights Minister Claudio Avruj, to Chabut, where his car was stoned by protesters.

Calls were issued on social networks for a demonstration on Wednesday at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.

Human rights organizations said they were not behind calls "but we demand justice, to know what happened to Santiago," said rights activist Taty Almeyda.