Government officials and opposition members have called for tougher security policies after the attack against Lionel Messi’s in-law’s supermarket in Rosario on Thursday morning.
It comes in a context of ongoing drug and gang-related violence that has resulted in more murders on the streets of Argentina’s third city in recent years.
“It’s clear that harming Rosario is easy, and that no one gives a f’ck about helping us,” said city mayor Pablo Javkin yesterday morning, blaming the national government for not supporting the city and making pointed remarks about the police.
“Rosario is inside of Argentina, and it needs answers.”
Yesterday morning, Argentina woke up to the news that Lionel Messi’s in-laws’ supermarket in Rosario, Santa Fe, had been shot at 14 times. Nobody was hurt but the unidentified attackers left a note threatening the football star.
“Messi, we’re waiting for you,” it said. “Javkin is a narco, he won’t protect you.”
President Alberto Fernández said that he had ordered his Chief of Staff Agustín Rossi, who was born in Santa Fe, to start working on the issue.
“We’re doing a lot, but more efforts are needed, apparently,” the president said. “Violence and organized crime in Rosario are a truly serious issue.”
His Security Minister, Aníbal Fernández, caused controversy by saying that drug traffickers, or narcos, had “won”.
He said in an interview: “the situation has been going on for 20 years, so, they have won.”
“That’s an unfortunate expression,” said Omar Perotti, governor of Santa Fe, during a press conference on Thursday. “We totally reject those statements about the narcos winning.”
Perotti, who is closer to Vice President Cristina Kirchner within Frente de Todos, will take part in an event today with Wado de Pedro in Casa Rosada, where they will sign an agreement to allow the provincial police to access identification systems and provide with 600 “top-notch” security cameras to “boost the city’s security.”
Congressperson Diego Santilli, who is expected to run for Buenos Aires Province governor this year, met with Javkin andposted a photo with the words “in order to go against the narcos, it is necessary to take down their bunkers, put them in jail and cut off their financing.”
Members from the opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio have called for tougher policies from the national government.
”All forces have to be used to take back Rosario from narco control,” said Patricia Bullrich, president of the PRO’ party, in a tweet. Bullrich was Security Minister between 2015 and 2019 and is expected to run for the presidency this year. Bullrich also said in an interview that Aníbal Fernández should resign as a Security Minister.
Inspired by El Salvador
Enrique Font, a criminology professor at Rosario University, told the Herald yesterday that Rosario’s problems cannot be understood solely from the perspective of drug trafficking, police management, or politics: they’re a transversal issue involving a number of structural problems.
“The city has a murder rate three or four times bigger than any comparable city and there are variables that are present in other cities,” he said, citing police mismanagement, drug consumption and the presence of gangs. “But the outcomes are not the same.”
Font warned that failing to stem the violence in Rosario could prompt a hard right political turn, with people calling for policies such as that implemented by President Nayib Bukele in El Salvador.
The Central American President declared a state of exception in 2022 after a spree of gang murders. He arrested tens of thousands of suspects, including some who appeared to simply be young men with tattoos. Some suspects have died in custody without ever standing trial and there are widespread reports of human rights violations.
Buenos Aires Province Security Minister Sergio Berni, of Frente de Todos, said in an interview that Bukele’s actions were “music to his ears”, adding that the Salvadoran had “copied what I’ve been thinking of for many years”.
Both Messi and his wife Antonela Roccuzzo are from Rosario, where they met as teenagers. Her family has run a chain of supermarkets in the city since the 1980s and works in the shop that was attacked.