Major parties running in Sunday’s mid-term congressional election in Argentina suspended their campaigns on Wednesday after a body, thought to be that of a young protester who went missing more than two months ago, was found in a river.
A government spokeswoman said President Mauricio Macri’s Cambiemos, Let’s Change, coalition would halt campaigning for the rest of the day after investigators on Tuesday discovered the body in the Chubut River in the country’s southern Patagonia region. The remains were found near the site where indigenous rights activist Santiago Maldonado was last seen at a tribal rights protest on August first
Ex-president and now Senate candidate Cristina Fernandez also suspended campaigning, along with other major figures vying for Congress, their campaigns said.
“We have halted all events until there is word from either the judge in charge of the case or Santiago’s family,” a spokesman for Fernandez’s Unidad Ciudadana, or “Citizens’ Unity” party announced.
In the final week of campaigning the Maldonado case has overshadowed the congressional election, which is expected to give Macri’s coalition additional seats but not a majority in either chamber.
Some opposition and rights groups believe state security forces took Maldonado, a 28-year-old craftsman, and allege Macri’s government covered up information on his whereabouts. Macri’s government has said that there is no evidence that shows security forces detained and retained Maldonado. 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.
President Macri's government offered a reward of almost US$ 32,000 for information on his disappearance. Meanwhile aldonado's brother, Sergio, has called for an independent investigation outside police authority.
In September, thousands of Argentines marched in the capital Buenos Aires to protest the activist's disappearance. The rally was one of many protests in cities across Argentina.
Potential cases of abuse by security forces are sensitive in Argentina, where the 1976-1983 military dictatorship secretly detained, tortured and killed people in clandestine prisons. Rights groups say up to 30,000 people “disappeared”, number which was later downgraded to some 9.000.
The markets will watch Sunday’s election to see if business-friendly Cambiemos emerges as the main force in the crucial province of Buenos Aires which holds 40% of the Argentine electorate. Investors say they prefer Macri’s orthodox economic policies to those of Cristina Fernandez, a free-spending populist who led the country from 2008 to 2016.
While it has dominated headlines, political analysts have said they do not expect the Maldonado case to influence voting. However it will depend on forensic studies of the body found, expected to take several days, but police investigators and criminologists have already pointed out an odd fact: no corpse climbs a glacier river rushing down from the mountain. In effect the remains were discovered a mile up the river from where allegedly the incidents between the Mapuche tribe and Maldonado, with security forces.