Argentine activist Maldonado murdered, back to dictatorship?

This video from Argentina says about itself:

20 October 2017

After almost three months, the body of indigenous rights activist Santiago Maldonado has been found.

By Andrea Lobo:

Discovery of dead youth’s body raises specter of forced disappearances in Argentina

23 October 2017

The recovery of a body last Tuesday in the Chubut river in the southern Argentine province of the same name has sparked mass protests across the country and demonstrations internationally.

Eleven weeks after a crackdown by the Gendarmerie against the indigenous Mapuche community led to the disappearance of a young demonstrator, search operations in the area located remains carrying his ID. As the forensic tests began Friday morning, the country waits anxiously to know whether this is the 28-year-old Santiago Maldonado.

The case has created a sense of deep distrust towards the conservative government of President Mauricio Macri and all the official institutions of the capitalist state involved. Not only was the corpse found 1,000 feet upstream from where he was last seen, but three previous searches in the same area had not found the body, which could suggest it was dumped at a later date.

Amid growing social opposition and anticipation that social cuts, price hikes or tarifazos, and attacks against jobs and wages will escalate after Sunday’s mid-term elections, this case has raised the prospect of a return to the methods of brutal state repression when tens of thousands of workers and youth were disappeared during the US-backed military juntas of the 1970s and 1980s across Latin America.

In Cushamen, located in the northeast region of Chubut, the Mapuche Autonomous Movement of Puel Mapu had set up a “Pu Lof (community) of resistance” in May 2015, claiming ancestral lands in a section of the 900,000 hectares owned in Argentina by the billionaires of the Italian Benetton family. The Mapuches have established a small settlement, which has been raided violently several times and burned down by the national Gendarmerie and the Chubut Police.

This year, the efforts to intimidate and expel the Mapuches were escalated, using live ammunition against the tents and making arrests. On July 31, Santiago Maldonado arrived at the Lof to support a demonstration for the release of the Mapuche leader Joanes Huala. That same day, the chief of staff of the Ministry of Security, Pablo Noceti, held a meeting with local authorities to coordinate an operation to clear the Lof.

Early on August 1, the planned confrontation began with 137 gendarmes cracking down on a road block set up by the Mapuches, where Maldonado was present. The military police then entered into the Pu Lof without a warrant and illegally shot live rounds, according to witnesses, and charged violently against those present, including children.

According to a lawyer defending the Mapuches, Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, that early morning Maldonado fled with several others as soon as shots were heard and hid near the Chubut river. Witnesses say that a group of officials caught up with them and, while some of the demonstrators were able to flee across the river, one person was arrested and placed in a van while several officials blocked its doors. Others detained were taken and imprisoned temporarily outside of the community, but Maldonado was unaccounted for.

The testimonies of the gendarmes and their superiors have contradicted each other, in terms of what happened at the river and whether a body was seen floating or not—downstream. According to Infobae, the family of Maldonado has denounced gaps in the video recording of the operation.

The court order to take evidence from the police precincts and the vehicles used by the state forces—as part of an illegal raid implicating the highest levels of the government—was not given until a week after the events, with the prosecutor acknowledging that evidence could have been tampered with by then.

However, audios were found in the messaging app Whatsapp of several cellphones taken from the gendarmes present at the August 1 operation that constitute perhaps the most chilling evidence not only of a kidnapping, but also of a deliberate cover-up and of the dictatorial attitude of the officials. “Apparently, he said that he had [Santiago] Maldonado in his pickup, the one of Sergeant Sartirana,” indicates an audio sent by a gendarme to a superior. Another recording mentions the hiding of the law enforcement vehicles.

Finally, another Whatsapp audio includes an incriminating statement demonstrating the fascistic and murderous mentality of the military police raiding the camp. “We shot them with live rounds (corchazos),” one official says, “for them to get some.”

During the proceeding weeks, government officials and the mainstream media sought to promote uncorroborated stories of “sightings” of Maldonado in nearby areas or versions that he crossed over to Chile. More recently, especially after Tuesday’s recovery of the body, the press has sought to lay responsibility on the Mapuches.

The first judge assigned to the case had previously upheld several of the previous crackdowns against the Mapuches and was reportedly being abusive in the interrogations, leading the family of Maldonado to request a change. Nonetheless, the new judge, Gustavo Lleral quickly ordered a new search operation for this week of the territory occupied by the Pu Lof, leading the Mapuche members to complain that they were again being targeted as suspects.

The case is being investigated by as a “forced disappearance,” but the assigned prosecutor stated in a report partially leaked by Clarín that the investigation was still inconclusive. Seeing ever larger demonstrations demanding the finding of Maldonado, church leaders as well as business chambers asked for a “solution” without “political party manipulations.”

In mid-September, the minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich, explicitly made clear that the administration’s priority is to reassure the state forces that they will continue enjoying impunity in carrying out such crimes and repression. “We have to defend those who defend us,” she declared on a TV talk show. That same week, sources close to Macri indicated that the blame was going be pinned on the “performance” of one or two gendarmes.

For its part, the press of the leading party of FIT, the Socialist Workers Party (PTS) reported the finding of the remains on Wednesday, stressing that “everything that happened to Santiago Maldonado since his disappearance… is the sole and exclusive responsibility of Patricia Bullrich, Pablo Noceti and the Gendarmerie.” Moreover, Marcelo Ramal, a candidate for deputy of the FIT’s other major party, the Workers’ Party (PO), told the press at a demonstration Thursday afternoon: “It’s necessary for the [security] minister Bullrich to step down to dismantle the cover-up by the administration and this minister in particular.”

On the contrary, the disappearance of Maldonado is a confirmation to the entire working class in Argentina and internationally that, facing a stagnated economy, levels of social inequality incompatible with democratic rights, and geopolitical flashpoints across Eurasia threatening to erupt into a world war, the ruling classes are turning to increasingly authoritarian forms of government.

The Macri administration is preparing to aggressively escalate its social attacks after the elections, beyond the 250,000 job cuts since December 2015 and devastating price hikes it has already overseen. The defense of the social and democratic rights against the growth of social reaction requires the construction of an international and revolutionary movement of the working class against capital and its political representatives of all shades, and for socialism.


Argentine indigenous rights activist Santiago Maldonado missing

This video says about itself:

Huge March in Argentina Demands Santiago Maldonado’s Return

2 September 2017

Thousands descended upon Argentina’s famous Plaza de Mayo to ask the state to respond to the disappearance of indigenous rights activist Santiago Maldonado.

Associated Press reports:

Argentine protesters demand answers about missing activist


September 2 2017

Tens of thousands of Argentines demonstrated in cities across the country on Friday holding photos of a missing activist who was last seen when border police evicted a group of indigenous Mapuche from lands in Patagonia owned by Italian clothing company Benetton.

Demonstrators in the Argentine capital marched to the Plaza de Mayo square in front of the presidential palace to demand the government find 28-year-old Santiago Maldonado alive.

The march marked the one-month anniversary of Maldonado’s disappearance. Since then, everyone — from soccer great Diego Maradona to Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla to politicians from opposing political parties — have joined human rights activists in a social media campaign under the slogan: “Where is Santiago Maldonado?”

The disappearance has hit a raw nerve in Argentina, where human rights groups estimate that about 30,000 people died or were forcibly disappeared during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

“We’ve gone back in time 40 years. I can’t accept it,” said Rosa de Roisinblit, 98, the vice president of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo human rights groups. During the dictatorship years, she marched every week in the same square in Buenos Aires, fighting alongside other women in the group to recover their children and grandchildren.

“I can’t believe that this is happening in a constitutional, democratically-elected government,” she said. …

Maldonado‘s case has become problematic for the government of President Mauricio Macri as human rights groups accuse it of being part of a cover up and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has urged Argentina to find the missing artisan and tattoo artist.

Maldonado‘s family says border police detained him when he and others were blocking a road in Chubut province, in the southern region of Patagonia. Authorities deny wrongdoing.

Maldonado’s case is being investigated as a forced disappearance. …

Maldonado had joined the Mapuche cause while living in southern Argentina. The Aug. 1 protesters were demanding the release of Facundo Jones Huala, an imprisoned Mapuche leader who is wanted by Chile. The lands belong to Compania de Tierras Sud Argentino, a wool-producing company owned by Benetton. Mapuches claim the lands as their ancestral territory and have been occupying them since 2015.

Some members of the Mapuche indigenous community have told reporters on condition of anonymity that Maldonado was taken by border police. But they have yet to ratify the information to authorities.

“We want a serious and impartial investigation,” Santiago’s brother, Sergio Maldonado, told demonstrators on Friday. “How much more must we ask ourselves: Where is Santiago?”

Rare hooded grebes in love, video

This video says about itself:

Hooded Grebe courtship dance, rare footage from “Tango in the Wind”

6 July 2017

The Hooded Grebe is a Critically Endangered bird that breeds on a few basaltic lakes in the interior of Santa Cruz, extreme south-west Argentina.

Film by Michael and Paula Webster featuring the Hooded Grebe and its spectacular courting ritual. Full movie to be released soon. To save birds’ habitats and breeding grounds [and see a more extensive video], please visit here.

See also here.

Dinosaurs extinct, buckthorn flowers survived

Two fossilized flowers next to each were discovered in shales of the Salamanca Formation in Chubut Province, Patagonia, Argentina. Credit: Nathan Jud, Cornell University

From Cornell University in the USA:

Oldest buckthorn fossilized flowers found in Argentina

May 11, 2017

Summary: Around 66 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous period, a giant asteroid crashed into the present-day Gulf of Mexico, leading to the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs. How plants were affected is less understood, but fossil records show that ferns were the first plants to recover many thousands of years afterward. Now, a team reports the discovery of the first fossilized flowers from South America, and perhaps the entire Southern Hemisphere, following the extinction event.

Around 66 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous period, a giant asteroid crashed into the present-day Gulf of Mexico, leading to the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs. How plants were affected is less understood, but fossil records show that ferns were the first plants to recover many thousands of years afterward.

Now, a team including Cornell researchers reports the discovery of the first fossilized flowers from South America, and perhaps the entire Southern Hemisphere, following the extinction event. The fossils date back to the early Paleocene epoch, less than one million years after the asteroid struck. They were discovered in shales of the Salamanca Formation in Chubut Province, Patagonia, Argentina.

The researchers identified the fossilized flowers as belonging to the buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae). Today, the family is found worldwide.

The study was published May 10 in the online journal PLOS One. “The fossilized flowers provide a new window into the earliest Paleocene communities in South America, and they are giving us the opportunity to compare the response to the extinction event on different continents,” said Nathan Jud, the paper’s first author and a postdoctoral researcher in Maria Gandolfo’s lab, a senior research associate at the L.H. Bailey Hortorium and a co-author of the paper.

The finding also helps resolve an ongoing debate in the field of paleobotany on the origin of the Rhamnaceae plant family. Scientists have argued about whether early buckthorns originated in an ancient supercontinent called Gondwana, which later split and includes most of the Southern Hemisphere landmasses today; or whether the family originated in another supercontinent called Laurasia that accounts for most of today’s Northern Hemisphere landmasses.

“This, and a handful of other recently-discovered fossils from the Southern Hemisphere, supports a Gondwanan origin for Rhamnaceae in spite of the relative scarcity of fossils in the Southern Hemisphere relative to the Northern Hemisphere,” Jud said.

Fossils found in Colombia and Southern Mexico offer evidence that plants from the Rhamnaceae family first appeared in the Late Cretaceous epoch shortly before the extinction event, Jud said.

Though there was likely some extinction when the asteroid struck, especially near the crater where everything was destroyed by impact-generated wildfires, he added.

One scenario is that Rhamnaceae first appeared in the tropics of Gondwana, but survived the extinction in Patagonia, and then spread from there after the extinction event as plants re-colonized the most affected areas, Jud said.

The Salamanca Formation is among the most precisely-dated sites from that era in the world. The age of the fossils was corroborated by radiometric dating (using radioactive isotopes), the global paleomagnetic sequence (signatures of reversals of Earth’s magnetic field found in the samples), and fossil correlations (age of other fossils).

“These are the only flowers of Danian age [an age that accounts for about 5 million years following the extinction event] for which we have good age control,” said Jud. Researchers have discovered other fossilized flowers in India and China from around the Danian age, but their dates are not as precise, he said.

To determine that the fossilized flowers from Argentina belonged to the Rhamnaceae family, the authors noticed that the organization of the petals and stamens in the fossil is found in Rhamnaceae and a few other families. They found examples of 10 of the 11 living Rhamnaceae tribes in the L.H. Bailey Hortorium Herbarium at Cornell University, which then were compared with morphological features in the fossil flowers to identify them.

Nun, priests arrested for abusing deaf children

This video says about itself:

6 February 2017

Two priests in Argentina are being held by police, accused of raping and molesting children with hearing disabilities.

The attacks allegedly took place at the Antonio Provolo Institute in Mendoza province.

At least 24 victims have so far come forward seeking justice.

Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo reports from Mendoza.

From Associated Press:

Argentina: Nun arrested for allegedly abusing deaf children

By Almudena Calatrava

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — May 5, 2017, 7:00 PM ET

A Roman Catholic nun from Japan has been arrested and charged on suspicion of helping priests sexually abuse children at a school for youths with hearing disabilities in Argentina, authorities said.

Kosaka Kumiko was also charged with physically abusing the students at the Antonio Provolo Institute for children with hearing impairment in northwestern Mendoza province.

Local media showed the 42-year-old nun in handcuffs and wearing her habit and a bullet-proof vest as she was escorted by police to a court hearing. Kumiko, who was born in Japan but has Argentine citizenship, denied any wrongdoing during the eight-hour hearing late Thursday.

Authorities say that Kumiko lived at the Provolo Institute from 2004-2012. She had been on the run for about a month before she turned herself in this week.

The case against the nun was launched after a former student accused of making her wear a diaper to cover up a hemorrhage after she was allegedly raped by priest Horacio Corbacho.

Corbacho, fellow priest Nicola Corradi and three other men were arrested last year after they were charged with sexually abusing at least two dozen students at the Provolo Institute. They are being held at a jail in Mendoza and have not spoken publicly since the arrest. If found guilty, the accused face 10 to 50 years in prison.

Corradi had earlier been accused in Italy of abusing students at the Provolo Institute in Verona, a notorious school for the deaf where hundreds of children are believed to have been sexually assaulted over the years by two dozen priests and religious brothers.

Advocates for [sic; against] clerical sex abuse have expressed anger that Corradi wasn’t sanctioned by the Vatican and allegedly went on to abuse children in Pope Francis‘ native Argentina.

Victims and prosecutors say the anal and vaginal rapes, fondling and oral sex allegedly committed by the priests took place in the bathrooms, dorms, garden and a basement at the school in Lujan de Cuyo, a city about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) northwest of Buenos Aires.

A Vatican investigative commission recently visited Mendoza to learn more about the case against the priests.

Birds of Argentina, new app

This 27 April 2017 video, in Spanish, is about the new app on birds in Argentina.

From BirdLife:

9 May 2017

Discover the birds of Argentina with this new free app

Planning a trip to Argentina but don’t know their birds yet? Aves Argentinas has got your back. Their new free mobile app has just been launched and will make it easier than ever to identify birds through a variety of filters.

It’s another sunny day in Costanera Sur, the best know nature reserve in Buenos Aires. For the third time today, the same unidentified bird is perching in a tree in front of you. About time you found out what you’re looking at. You tap on your “Aves Argentinas” app and put on the filters: brown colour, medium size, found in parks. There it is: a Checkered Woodpecker, Veniliornis mixtus.

As of last week, when travelling around Argentina, you don’t need to worry about taking your weighty bird guide with you. Two taps away, birders living in the country will be able to easily identify 365 of the most common and emblematic birds.

The app “Aves Argentinas” is available for Android and iOS users and contains more than 1500 photos, songs, information and maps of the 365 most common and emblematic bird species of the country. Once downloaded you don’t even need an internet connection, since the guide has been developed so that travellers can take it to remote places.

Through different search filters like province, size, colour, season of the year and habitat type, among many others, one can find and identify the species that are seen in gardens, balconies, parks or urban reserves.

Download the app for free (in Spanish): Android or iOS.

For each species there are photos, songs, a distribution map and a complete listing with the description, the most common names, scientific name and name in English, habitat, food, behaviour and their migrations – an invaluable educational tool so that the youngest can get to know and value their natural heritage and a comprehensive guide for those who want to dive into the fascinating world of birdwatching.

In the app section “The World of Birds” you will find an introduction about the life and behaviours of our feathered friends, information about their classification, the problems that affect them, the plans to protect them and recommendations on how and where to observe them.

This application is a collaborative tool made by dozens of photographers, authors and sound artists from Aves Argentinas (BirdLife in Argentina), the oldest environmental organization in Latin America. With 100 years of experience and more than 3000 supporters, the organization works to save wild birds and the nature of this richly biodiverse country while seeking to inspire people to feel passionate about birds.

The app was developed by Aves Argentinas to celebrate their centenary, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism of the Nation and the National Park Administration.