This week I’m feeling a little bit uninspired about what to write about, so I thought I would go back to a resource I have used previously, The Business and Human Rights Resource centre. I decided I would have a browse of the website and try and find another topic that I don’t know a lot about.
I had a look through some topics and decided that ‘disappearances’ sounded like an interesting one. It lead me to this article from the Guardian. (As it is my favoured news source, I realise I have used this source many times. In future posts I hope to make use of some different sources.)
The article entitled ‘Argentina activist missing after indigenous people evicted from Benetton land’ from the 8th of August 2017 is definitely a news story that passed me by. The article talks about Santiago Maldonado, an activist who went missing following a protest over the use of land in Argentina by Italian clothing company Benetton. Benetton currently own a huge plot of land in Patagonia that is used to keep sheep that produce wool for their clothing. Mapuche Indians who are indigenous to this area were evicted from here following a protest, and shortly after that Maldonado went missing.
At first when I found this article, ideas of conspiracy sparked. Sounds rather suspicious that an activist would go missing while security defending Benetton’s land were in the process of eviction. Did they have some involvement with his disappearance? As this article is now three months old, I thought I would do a follow up search to see if Maldonado has been found.
Santiago Maldonado’s body was found in a river 78 days after the original event. Members of his family confirmed it to be him on October 20th 2017. It was found in an autopsy that he had no external injuries and that he drowned. Although there are many theories surrounding what really happened to Maldonado that day, in my opinion (and the current opinion of the court) I believe that he most likely died while trying to escape the protest. Many protesters crossed the Chubut river when escaping and it has been noted that Maldonado could not swim.
However, I am still suspicious, what could have been happening that was so terrible that would have caused Maldonado, a person unable to swim to see the river as his only option to safety? I would love to spend some more time and delve more deeply into this case.
Obviously, if it turns out that Maldonado was killed unlawfully by forces governed by the state, then this would be without a doubt a huge human rights violation. However, with all that aside, this case touches on an important human rights topic; who has the right to this land owned by Benetton? Benetton may in a legal sphere own this land, however the Mapuches claim the land as ancestral territory. Were they evicted from here unlawfully in the first place? There is certainly lots to think about when considering this case.