Argentina: thousands protest over missing indigenous rights activist

Argentina: thousands protest over missing indigenous rights activist
By Alasdair Sandford
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Santiago Maldonado disappeared after clashes as security forces evicted a group of Mapuche Indians from land owned by Benetton in Patagonia.


A missing campaigner for indigenous rights prompted thousands of people to march through Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires on Friday.

It is feared that Santiago Maldonado may have been taken away by police in Patagonia 10 days ago, when security forces evicted Mapuche Indians from land owned by the Italian clothing firm Benetton.

Human rights groups and the UN have expressed concern.

The case has revived memories of disappearances in the past, when tens of thousands were murdered by the authorities.

“Forty years ago during the military dictatorship we shouted ‘they took them away, we want them alive, the guilty must be punished’. It’s unacceptable that today with a constitutional government we have to shout the same again,” said one of the protesters, Taty Almeida from the movement “Mothers of Plaza de Mayo”.

“I think it could have happened to any of us, we have ideals and we fight for what we think. No one should disappear for fighting for their ideas and for what they believe,” added another young protester, Sofia Palermo.

The case has highlighted a long-running conflict between Benetton, which grazes sheep on land it owns in Patagonia to produce wool, and the Mapuche people – who claim ancestral territory.

The government has offered a reward for information about the activist’s disappearance after a UN committee called for action.

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