Santiago Maldonado from Argentina was only 28 years old when he was found dead in a bend in the Chubut River under suspicious circumstances on August 1st 2017.
It is unknown how he died as there were no visible wounds on his body. He was an artisan involved in the hippie community and wanted to show solidarity for the indigenous people and their ancestral land rights. The land that Maldonado was trying to protect, however, had been bought by an a Italian businessman Luciano Benetton, a clothing retailer. The Mapuche community, however, now occupy that land and claim it as their own.
Maldonado joined a protest in solidarity with the Mapuche community and to demand the release of their leader Fucando Jones Huala. However, the protest was shut down by the National Gendarmerie. According to witnesses the National Gendarmerie acted with violence towards the protestors and Santiago was last seen climbing a tree trying to escape them. There have been many theories about what happened to Santiago, including that proposed by Patricia Bullrich, the security minister for Argentina, suggesting that he was stabbed by a fellow protester, or that he drowned in the Chubut River where he was found. The main theory that is widely believed by human rights activists and his family is that Santiago was captured and killed by the National Gendarmerie and that it was a cover up by the government.
Santiago’s brother Sergio described him as a nomad and not an activist. He was a person who loved nature and art and did not have any violent tendencies. While it is uncertain how exactly Santiago Maldonado died his story has left a mark that will continue to resonate with Argentina’s people for years to come as they fight for justice.