Pleading for freedom and life

Demonstrators in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, calling for the "appearance with life" of activist Santiago Maldonado. Photo: Infobae
Demonstrators in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, calling for the "appearance with life" of activist Santiago Maldonado. Photo: Infobae

Argentine churches seek state answers over disappeared activist Santiago Maldonado

(LWI) - Lutheran church leaders in Argentina have joined ecumenical and human rights organizations in raising their “profound concern” over the disappearance of 28-year-old activist Santiago Maldonado, whose whereabouts remain unknown after he was detained by military police on 1 August.

Civil society organizations, including the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights (MEDH), demanded that the security ministry “give an account of his disappearance and provide the pertinent answers to the seriousness of the case.”

In a joint release, they also urged that the resources of the national state, “be placed at the service of the investigation, guaranteeing such service and arbitrating the means to locate Santiago.”

The statement added: “We demand that Minister Patricia Bullrich, responsible for the repressive gendarmerie who arrived in Cushamen … give an account of his disappearance and report on the matter and give pertinent answers.”

The President of the Evangelical Church of the River Plate (IERP), Rev. Carlos A. Duarte, and the President of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELU), Rev. Gustavo Gomez, endorsed the MEDH statement.

“I express my repudiation concerning the actions of the public force and the statements of Minister Bullrich and demand justice and the appearance of Santiago Maldonado alive,” Duarte said.

Maldonado had arrived in Pu Lof en Resistencia in the department of Cushamen in Chubut province to help the community in its suit to reclaim tribal lands the day before the raid by about 100 uniformed members of the national police force.

According to witnesses and human rights’ groups, the military police entered the community, shot the villagers, beat them up and burned their belongings, and captured and took away Maldonado.

Witnesses said they saw military police officers shove the young activist into a van and drive away. An Amnesty International report quotes witnesses who said that they saw a group of military police beating up a young man who was tied up. No other person was reported missing.

The government denies any involvement in Maldonado’s disappearance. Despite several attempts by the community to locate him, including various appeals before a federal judge, the authorities have not offered any information about the young activist’s whereabouts.

“We want Santiago Maldonado free and alive,” churches and human rights groups stated, adding it was no longer acceptable in Argentina for anyone to disappear without any answers being provided by the state. To date, families supported by civil society groups continue the search for truth and justice over the systematic disappearance of an estimated 30,000 political activists, students, human rights defenders, trade unionists and their sympathizers during the country’s military dictatorship, 1976-1983.