The court investigating the death of Santiago Maldonado has rejected the government’s request that it drop charges against officers of the country’s Gendarmerie (Border Patrol).
Maldonado went missing on August 1 near the Chubut river where his body was found 73 days later. The 27-year-old artisan had been participating in a road block with a group of militant Mapuches who were protesting over claimed ancestral land currently in the hands of Italian clothing designer Luciano Benetton.
The case is currently being treated as a “forced disappearance followed by death”, a charge that places responsibility for Maldonado’s death with the Border Patrol officers who acted to displace the road block that day.
The government argues that the case cannot be considered a disappearance because Maldonado’s body eventually appeared.
Judge Gustavo Lleral denied the request because “it would suppose, without any doubt, a premature opinion by this magistrate on the hypothesis of the investigation”.
“It is legally impossible for me to conclude on the judicial qualification which the lawyer (Fernando Soto, representing the national government) alludes to”, he said, in a statement published by Adriana Meyer in Página 12.
Security Minister Patricia Bullrich last week suggested the case had been “clarified” and, as such, the Maldonado family should take charge of their own legal costs.
Bullrich told Radio 10’s El Ángel programme on Wednesday that Lleral should now “help us to change the charges surrounding this episode”. She also responded to recent revelations that the Maldonado family was receiving subsidies from the State in order to cover their legal costs.
The charges require that the “Justice Ministry help the family of Santiago Maldonado” in the form of subsidies to cover their legal costs, Bullrich explained. “Perhaps in this case, given that the issue has been clarified, we might reconsider the situation”.