Latin America & Caribbean

Santiago Maldonado: Argentina activist's body identified

Santiago Maldonado Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Santiago Maldonado went missing after an indigenous rights protest in Patagonia

Forensic experts in Argentina have identified the body of a young activist, Santiago Maldonado, who had been missing since 1 August.

He disappeared after a confrontation with police at an indigenous rights protest in Patagonia. His body was found in a nearby river on Tuesday.

The authorities said he drowned and there was no sign of violence.

Maldonado's disappearance has become highly politicised ahead of Sunday's congressional elections.

The opposition blamed security agents for his death and accused the government of Mauricio Macri of covering up the crime.

'No wounds'

The head of the United Nations human rights office for Latin America, Amerigo Incalcaterra, has called for a thorough investigation.

Both governing and opposition parties temporarily suspended campaigning as the body was sent to Buenos Aires for identification on Tuesday.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Sergio Maldonado, Santiago's brother, had called for an independent investigation

His brother recognised the body after seeing his tattoos on Friday.

Later on Friday, Judge Gustavo Lleral confirmed as he left the morgue that the body was that of the 28-year-old activist.

"We had a long day of work. Fifty-five people were in the room taking part in the autopsy and there were another 30 outside the room," he said.

"We are convinced that it's Santiago," he added.

"It was possible to establish that there were no wounds on the body."

Maldonado was last seen after he was arrested at a demonstration for the rights of the Mapuche indigenous group in southern Argentina on 1 August.

On the day that he disappeared, border police clashed with protesters while dismantling a roadblock that had been erected on Route 40, the main road crossing Argentina from north to south.

Police later denied detaining Maldonado.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The activist's death caused outrage across Argentina

Human rights campaigners, union leaders and left-wing groups had called on President Macri's government, which has denied allegations of a cover-up, to do more to find him.

Mr Macri's government then offered a reward of almost $30,000 (£23,000) for information on his disappearance.

Justice Minister Germán Garavano claimed the result of the autopsy should lay to rest some of the accusations levelled at the government by activists.

"The investigation was seriously damaged by people who lied to the justice system," he said.

Mr Garavano added that Mr Macri had phoned Santiago Maldonado's mother earlier on Saturday and had "a good chat with her in a moment of so much pain".

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