Andes Mountain Survivor Faces Pedophilia Charges in Chile

PHOTO: Aerial view of the Andes mountain range, near the border between Chile and Argentina, on January 29, 2013PABLO PORCIUNCULA/AFP/Getty Images
Aerial view of the Andes mountain range, near the border between Chile and Argentina, on January 29, 2013

A 58-year-old man who miraculously survived for four months in a cabin in the Andes mountains was fleeing pedophilia charges in Chile.

On Monday, Chilean authorities issued an international arrest warrant for Raúl Fernando Gómez Cincunegui, a Uruguayan citizen who was reported missing last June after he got lost while trying to cross the mountainous border between Chile and Argentina.

Gómez, a plumber and public employee from Uruguay nicknamed “the gypsy,” had traveled through various Chilean cities on his motorcycle on his way to a biker meeting in Mendoza, Argentina. According to his wife, Gómez called in early May and told her that his bike had broken down and that he was going to cross the border by foot, following a friend’s advice.

Gómez disappeared on May 11 amid a series of snowstorms that hindered search parties’ attempts to locate him, and no one heard from him until last Sunday, when he was spotted by a helicopter crew in an abandoned shelter 4,500 meters [14,700 feet] above sea level in the province of San Juan, Argentina.

“I believe that if he had stayed there for a few more days, he wouldn’t have made it,” Walter Gallardo, the helicopter pilot who found Gómez, told the Diario de Cuyo, a local newspaper. “He couldn’t even stand to ask for help.”

The Uruguayan survived nearly 120 days by eating berries, grass, an owl, and small rats he captured in a trap that he put together inside an abandoned cabin, where he took shelter from strong winds and freezing temperatures.

Gómez, who lost 20 kilos [44 pounds] during the four months, told his rescuers that he cooked the rats he caught in a small pan, which he had taken with him as a souvenir. He said he dreamt of being rescued every day and that he had decided to walk across the border because he was fleeing an “unjust” sexual abuse accusation in Chile.

According to Chilean authorities, Gómez was accused of abusing an 8-year-old child in a neighborhood north of Santiago. Gómez was banned from leaving the country, and a warrant for his arrest was issued on June 17th after he failed to show up in court. Chile’s government has asked Argentina for Gómez’s extradition, so that he can respond to charges.

Gómez’s family have denied the accusations against him. They say that Gómez has already cleared everything up in court and that the initial charges were made up by a woman with psychological problems.

“It’s what some bad person is saying to hurt [him],” Irma Cincunegui, Gómez’s mother, told the Associated Press. “Raúl is a good man, an honest worker. Everyone knows him in [his hometown of] Bella Unión, where he never had problems with anyone.”

Gómez is still recovering at a hospital in Argentina. His family has said that he can leave for Uruguay as soon as he wants, and a hospital spokesperson said that he could be released within 24 hours.

However, an unnamed source at Uruguay’s interior ministry told Argentinian newspaper La Nacion, that is unlikely that Gómez will be able to travel to his home country. He will probably have to remain in Argentina while the extradition process continues.