Five naval police officers sentenced for Rafael Nahuel’s murder

One was convicted of aggravated homicide for shooting Nahuel when evicting a Mapuche community in 2017

Five members of the elite naval police squad known as “Albatros” were convicted and sentenced for the murder of Rafael Nahuel, 22, a Mapuche man shot dead during an eviction of his community in Villa Mascardi, Río Negro province, in November 2017.

Officer Sergio Cavia received a five-year sentence after being convicted of homicide aggravated by the use of a firearm. However, his prison time was reduced on the grounds that it was considered an excess in self-defense.

The other four officers — Francisco Javier Pintos, Juan Ramón Obregón, Carlos Valentín Sosa, and Sergio García — were given four years and six months of jail time after being considered necessary participants in the murder.

All officers were also banned from working in public administration — eight years in Cavia’s case and seven for the rest.

The General Roca Federal Oral Court announced the sentence on Wednesday morning, the last day of the trial, which started on August 14, six years after Nahuel’s murder.

The murder of Rafael Nahuel

Nahuel was shot during an eviction carried out by security forces in Villa Mascardi, Bariloche. The Nahuel Huapi National Park had accused his community of “usurping” the disputed land where he was living. Mapuche communities have been claiming rights over their ancestral land for centuries. In recent years, they have suffered repression and persecution by security forces.

“We are not satisfied with the sentence,” attorney Mariano Przybylski told the Herald. Przybylski represented the Human Rights Secretariat as a plaintiff in the case.

Przybylski said that “it was proven [during the trial] that they shot over 150 times with lethal ammunition while chasing [the Mapuches].” He added that “all the bullets entered the victims’ [bodies] from behind,” meaning they were shot from the back.

“There was no excess, but an intention to kill,” the attorney said. “And that was not translated into the sentence.” 

Przybylski confirmed that the secretariat will appeal the decision after the court reveals the grounds for the sentence on December 29.

However, he said the secretariat was satisfied by the fact that all five officers were convicted and received prison sentences. “Getting a sentence that reflects that a crime was committed after so long is not a minor detail,” Przybylski stated, clarifying that it was especially relevant considering that the “political authorities” back then “defended the officers’ actions.”

Przybylski said he was referencing Patricia Bullrich, who was Security Minister at the time during former President Mauricio Macri’s administration. 

The secretariat had asked for life sentences for all the officers due to the accusation of aggravated homicide. It also requested that they be convicted of aggravated attempted homicide since other Mapuche members who were at the place were also shot at.

Nahuel’s family and Bariloche’s Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, who were also plaintiffs in the case, asked the court that “racial hate” also be taken into account as an aggravating factor in the sentence.

The defense had asked for the acquittal of the five officers.

During the trial, the accused claimed they had been involved in a shootout with members of the Mapuche community. However, ballistic and criminological experts in the trial refuted those claims. At the beginning of the trial, Pintos and Sosa testified that members of Nahuel’s own community shot and killed him. This was also disproven during the proceedings.


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