Santiago Maldonado’s Tragic Death Underlines the Needs of a Mapuche Community

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By Alexia Rauen

The New York Times headline on October 19 read: “Body Found in Argentine River Shakes Up Election.” Al Jazeera stated on October 22: “Santiago Maldonado’s death overshadows elections.” “A missing-person case looms over Argentina’s midterm elections,” was The Economist headline on September 7. These headlines contextualize the discovery of Santiago Maldonado’s body in terms of national politics and fail to capture the indigenous struggle at the root of his disappearance. Maldonado was present at a mapuche indigenous protest on August 1 in the Patagonian region of Argentina when he disappeared. Cristina Kirchner, the former president of Argentina who has not been shy about her discontent with Mauricio Macri’s government, has used Maldonado’s disappearance as further criticism. Ultimately, the coalition of parties of incumbent Macri proved successful in the elections despite the discovery of Maldonado’s body, securing a significant political victory by dominating “the top five population centers of Buenos Aires City, and Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Santa Fe and Mendoza provinces.” While the international community and Argentine politicians have gravitated to Maldonado’s death as a political instrument in these elections, the death has struck a different chord among the Argentine population. Widespread protests demanding his reappearance in Argentine cities occurred, and with his death an investigation must now be held to determine the cause of death and possible involvement of law enforcement.

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