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News > Latin America

Activists ask ‘Where is Santiago Maldonado?’ at Che Commemorations in Bolivia

  • Activists at a forum unfurl a banner with the face of Maldonado, Vallegrande, Bolivia, October 7, 2017.

    Activists at a forum unfurl a banner with the face of Maldonado, Vallegrande, Bolivia, October 7, 2017. | Photo: Agencia Boliviana de Informacion

Published 7 October 2017

The 28-year-old disappeared on August 1 at a demonstration in support of Argentina’s Mapuche community.

Campaigners from across Latin America, gathering in Bolivia to celebrate the legacy Ernesto “Che” Guevara 50 years after his death, are calling for news of the missing Argentine activist Santiago Maldonado.

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Hundreds of pamphlets with the words, “Where is Santiago Maldonado?” have been posted in the buildings where forums, debates, artistic and musical exhibitions are taking place in memory of Che.

Maldonado disappeared on August 1 in Pu Lof shortly after he was arrested during a demonstration in support of Argentina’s Mapuche community.

The protest in Patagonia was part long-running dispute between Benetton, the Italian clothing retailer, which owns 2.2m acres of land, and the Indigenous people who claim part of the territory.

According to witnesses, the rally was interrupted by the federal police force. One participant and community member, Matias Santana, claimed to have seen officers force Maldonado into a vehicle after knocking him unconscious.

Sergio Maldonado, Santiago's brother, said the only realistic theory explaining the case is that he was “taken by police.”

"Today, the government of Michelle Bachelet in Chile, together with the government of Mauricio Macri in Argentina, go against the Mapuche people, as this brother of ours has disappeared,” said Mewlen Huencho, a spokeswoman for the resistance of the Mapuche people.

“We are in solidarity with … this brother who … was in solidarity with our just and noble cause that defends the rights of a people and the liberation of all Indigenous peoples,” she added.

"SANTIAGO IN VALLEGRANDE, BOLIVIA.- Argentine activists call for Santiago Maldonado in the lands where Che fought. PHOTO ABI"

"As revolutionary social movements we support the Argentines in the search for this comrade, Santiago Maldonado," said Carlos Aznarez, director of the Argentine news portal, Summary Latinoamericano.

In recent weeks, Bolivian President Evo Morales also joined the chorus of those demanding the appearance of the young activist.

"We join the voice of the Argentine and Latin American people, Where is Santiago Maldonado?" he wrote on his official Twitter account.

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From October 5 to 9 in the city of Vallegrande, where Che's body was buried after his capture and murder by the Bolivian state in 1967, the country is highlighting his revolutionary accomplishments with a host of activities ahead of the anniversary of his death on October 9.

Che helped create the Nancahuazu Guerrilla, also known as the National Liberation Army in Bolivia and led them to their first victory in the town of Camiri. The guerilla movement successfully ambushed the Bolivian Army but was eventually routed by U.S.-backed forces.

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