“What I expressed in my statement coincides with what was reported by some people from the native peoples who were found at the scene.” Page12 spoke with the protected witness who testified in the case for the disappearance and death of Santiago Maldonado on May 3, 2022. A woman who does not exist, according to former official Patricia Bullrich. “August 1, 2017 was a special day that is etched in my memory forever, the situations and sequences that I experienced in the Esquel Gendarmerie squad began, due to a procedure carried out in the cut of Route 40,” he recalls. refer to the protest of the Mapuche community in Resistencia de Cushamen that between July 31 and August 1 demonstrated against the imprisonment of several of its members in Bariloche, and its lonko Facundo Jones Huala in Unit 14 of that locality Chubutense, and to everything that happened the following days among those in olive green uniform who participated in the violent operation that repressed the Mapuches, in the midst of which Maldonado disappeared.
In this exclusive interview, the witness —daughter and niece of gendarmes, who was a gender reference within that force— explains what she suffered from knowing too much, describes the maneuver that tried to implicate her and the reasons that led her to speak in court, on May 3 before federal prosecutor Federico Baquioniat the request of the plaintiff attorney Veronica Heredia representing the family of Santiago.
That day, in his statement, he provided extensive and detailed testimony –with precise names, surnames, dates, places, and circumstances– in which he affirmed that in his office several gendarmes commented on the operation of August 1 at Pu Lof in Cushamen, and said that “there was a detainee, they referred to him as the ‘hippie’, they had detained him in the area of the (Luciano) Benetton field”, and that they wanted to get information from him but “he got away”. This civilian professional from the Gendarmerie gave her name, surname and personal data to the prosecution. Neverthelesswhen contacted by this newspaper requested confidentiality of his identity and mentioned that it is in a witness protection program. According to the account, the witness stated that the next day the commander John Paul School, second-in-command of Esquel’s 36th squad, asked her to hide a box in her house — containing a gun, cell phones and a bloody rag — but she refused. In another section of her statement, she said that the husband of a nurse had told her that she “had received an encrypted radio saying what to do with the body.” And she stated that the comment the following days in the squad was that Escola gave the order and Andres Ahumada I kill him. Ahumada was the gendarme who admitted having entered the Lof armed, denying Mauricio Macri’s officials.
For the family of the young anarchist this statement “connect all the pieces“. For the judicial sources that gave access to Page 12 to the opinion with which Baquioni asked Judge Gustavo Lleral to include the testimony in the file, if the case had not been paralyzed, arrests and raids would have already occurred. Despite the probative value and credibility of the testimony, it will remain “reserved” until the Supreme Court is issued on the disqualification of Lleral, who has already ruled for the closure of the case. The family insists that a new magistrate must investigate all the hypotheses, including the forced disappearance.
In first person
“I was born in Esquel, I am a licensed health professional from the UNC, my profession is focused on different physical, motor and sensory rehabilitations, I worked in public hospitals and rehabilitation centers before joining the National Gendarmerie. My link with the institution comes from years, my father was a gendarme, he died in 2019, and my uncles are now retired, they were also gendarmes. I entered the institution in 2006 on the advice of my father, although I knew in part the life of the gendarme I knew that the professional ladder was different, and there was a different treatment by the staff in general,” said the witness in dialogue with Page 12. “My first assignment was Jesús María, I spent five years in the NCO school, then I requested a transfer to Esquel’s 36 squadron, due to a family situation in 2012. Until December 2021 I stayed there. I decided to move to my current address to get out of that squad that traumatized me emotionally and psychologically.e, at this moment I am in availability condition. My life today is calm, but with personal and work situations to resolve. My faith in God allows me to trust in a tomorrow for good“, he added.
Q: When and why did you decide to testify in the Santiago case?
–It was at the end of 2017. I was collecting all the data that my ears heard and my vision saw; Many situations experienced did not coincide with what the television and communication media said. As the days passed I had to find a way and a way to make all that known, meanwhile my work and personal life began to present itself in an insecure way and I was persecuted, each year it was worse. The synthesis of my statement was all the data I collected, a series of lived sequences and statements from the staff who entered my office or presented themselves in the Health sector where I was working.
–Was the content of the box (a gun, cell phones and a bloody rag) that you were asked to keep evidence of the Maldonado case?
–They ordered me to receive a box, at a suspicious time, at five in the morning at my house, and days later there was a raid on the squad (N. de R. in the framework of the judicial investigation into the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado ). There I had doubts, and I asked for an explanation, but they answered me ‘shut your mouth, it’s an order‘.
Q: You said in your statement that the bosses said that Commander Escola gave the order and that Ahumada shot him. However the body had no signs of gunshots.
–I do not know the summary of the experts; I only heard testimonies from third parties who were related to the particular topic and disclosed specific data.
Q: Your testimony coincides with the statements of the Mapuches regarding the participation of the Gendarmerie. Did you expect me to produce some measures in the cause?
–In my humble opinion, I consider that they should call to declare all the testimonies that were missing, which were of the utmost importance of that squad.
–How did you come to contact the Secretary of Human Rights? Are you in any state witness protection programs?
–There were many contacts related to different human rights organizations that brought me closer to the secretariat. I am currently under Witness Protection.
–Were you a gender reference?
–Yes, I was a gender reference, a pioneer in that squad and expelled from that function at the end of 2017 by the shift chiefs, commanders Badié and Escola. As a gender reference, it was common for them to come to my office to discuss personal matters, but the reference to Maldonado was already something institutional about what had happened.
–That place was turning into a confessional, they were going to do catharsis. Did that turn against him, did he end up knowing too much?
–Yes effectively. I began to know more than I should have known.
–Since your statement in the case came out, has anyone questioned your intentions to be a witness?
–I never doubted my intentions to testify, it was only necessary to find the time and place.
–What is your relationship with the Maldonado family?
–I don’t have the pleasure of meeting her, we only spoke initially with Sergio. There is an infinite pain in them to find the veracity of the events that occurred in that sad tragedy that they had to live. In these years in silence I prayed for them and if my declaration helps to shed a little light in so much darkness I would feel calm for having carried out a human action.
The woman also told prosecutor Baquioni that she found out that they had begun to name her as the “left-handed” and that they warned her “that she was a key witness because she knew a lot, that they had to shut her mouth, and that she be careful.” . In mid-October 2017, she detected tracking. Four years later she moved out of the province and was made available. She also took the initiative to file a complaint with the Ministry of Justice, as a victim of institutional violence, but they did not want to listen to her. Given the danger implied by the monitoring of the witness by Gendarmerie Intelligence personnel, the prosecutor ordered that this be investigated and, at the same time, arranged for her to be protected by some State program.
Relatives and friends of Santiago Maldonado, together with human rights organizations, called for a rally this Monday in Plaza de Mayo with the slogan “five years of impunity”, as part of a new anniversary of the disappearance followed by death of the anarchist tattoo artist. . The central act is scheduled for 6:00 p.m., and an hour before, musical bands will be presented: Las Manos de Filippi, La Delio Valdez, La Chilinga and Malena D’Alessio en Bandada, as expressed in the statement from Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained for Political Reasons, HIJOS Capital, Relatives and Companions of the 12 of Santa Cruz, Permanent Assembly for Human Rights -La Matanza-, Truth and Justice Memory Commission, North Zone, Argentine Historical and Social Memory Foundation, Argentine League for Human Rights, Center for Legal and Social Studies, Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights and Fundación Buena Memoria. Santiago Maldonado disappeared on August 1, 2017, after being repressed along with young Mapuches from the recovered territory of Cushamen, who were protesting with a blockade of Route 40. His body was found lifeless on October 17 in the Chubut River.