It is difficult to think of words that should be added to the debate concerning the whereabouts of Santiago Maldonado, the 28-year-old artisan who went missing in Chubut at the turn of the last month. This issue has seen too many careless words thrown at it of late, as evidenced by some of the columns that have appeared in the national press, in opinion slots both verbal and written and in some of the more unsavoury corners of social media networks. Disappointingly – and perhaps most unsurprisingly of all – the reaction to Mr Maldonado’s disappearance is further proof of how polarised this country’s politics has become. Last week, as this newspaper’s first edition was being sent to the printing presses, huge crowds gathered in the Plaza de Mayo. They were a diverse multitude of people, a complex mix of concerned citizens, yet they all sought the answer to one question: ‘Where is Santiago Maldonado?’ Later that night and over the following days, the actions of a violent few became the focus of much of the local media, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of those present demonstrated peacefully and caused no trouble. When the dust settled, troubling details about the detention of individuals by police officers emerged, including a number of journalists and photographers. Thankfully, however, it seems that the demonstrations may have sparked a reaction by the government, which until this week had given little inclination that it was taking Mr Maldonado’s disappearance as seriously as it should have been treated from the start. Despite the government’s claims to the contrary, it is clear that in this instance they have not acted in a manner befitting a serving administration, especially in a country with such a dark, traumatic and relatively recent history of forced disappearances.
The Mauricio Macri administration has long shown itself to be somewhat tone deaf in dealing with human rights issues, but accusations of an act of this severity deserved an immediate, complete, effective independent investigation. The government’s failure to respond appropriately has weakened its position and the investigation, leading the family of the missing man further away from what matters most, the truth. Most worryingly of all, Mr Maldonado’s disappearance is increasingly looking like it may join a group of dark Argentine tragedies in which the truth seems as though it may never come to light.
Really, there is only one issue at hand here: where is Santiago Maldonado and what happened to him on August 1? The government – which should remind itself of its responsibilities to every citizen inArgentina, even those who make ridiculous claims about conspiracies of fear and insist it seeks to secretly return the country to the days of the dictatorship – should do everything in its power to answer that query, as urgently as possible.