Argentina’s president said Tuesday he would send hundreds more federal security forces to the central city of Rosario, where drug violence has drawn international attention because of a recent threat against soccer star Lionel Messi.
The death of an 11-year-old boy at the weekend sparked concern and anger in Argentina over growing violence in the city, following a written threat last Thursday when assailants set fire to a supermarket owned by Messi’s in-laws.
It was unclear why Macy and his relatives were targeted, but officials publicly speculated at the time that it was an attempt by drug traffickers to intimidate the entire community.
On Sunday, an 11-year-old child was killed and three other children, including a 2-year-old, were injured in what authorities said was related to a war between rival gangs.
President Alberto Fernandez announced on Tuesday that the federal government would increase the number of federal security forces in the port city to 1,400. Fernandez did not specify how many forces would be needed but provincial estimates said it would double the number currently in the city.
Argentine police arrest suspect who killed 11-year-old boy during birthday party
Fernandez said army engineers would also be sent to help build infrastructure for the poorer areas.
“I understand Rosario needs us,” Fernandez said in a recorded video message about the city, some 190 miles north of the capital. “I know their security forces are inadequate.”
In addition, the president said the government would install 600 new surveillance cameras with facial recognition software in Rosario, and open a new branch of its anti-money laundering agency to deal with drug-related financing.
“We are going to put the authority of the state at the center to bring community life back to the city,” Fernandez said. “We will not hesitate to fight organized crime.”
Rosaria’s mayor Pablo Javkin, a politician opposed to the ruling Peronist coalition, previously accused the federal government of not doing enough to respond to the city’s violence, which has risen to levels historically rare in Argentina.
Adrian Spelta, the prosecutor in charge of investigating the weekend’s shooting, said the violence showed “some of the boundaries that existed have been crossed,” noting that the presence of minors has led to drug-related shootings in the past. But must have applied the brakes.
On Monday, Argentines watched live on news channels as neighbors and relatives of the murdered 11-year-old attacked the alleged suspect in his home. Police detained him and saved him from mob violence, but residents destroyed his house and looted his belongings.
People claimed to have destroyed at least 3 houses in the area used by drug dealers.
Last Thursday, no one was injured in an early morning attack on a supermarket linked to relatives of Messi, a Rosario native and captain of the World Cup-winning national football team late last year.
But a message written on a piece of cardboard carries an ominous warning: “Messi, we are waiting for you.”
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Security Minister Aníbal Fernández said at the time that the incident was an example of how drug traffickers “won” in Rosario, but that now “we have to reverse it.”
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