Security Minister announces task force to tackle looting

Aníbal Fernández said that recent attacks on supermarkets were ‘not spontaneous’ and reflect ‘a desire to create conflict’

Argentine Security Minister Aníbal Fernández said Wednesday that the looting registered in various cities was “not spontaneous,” warning that incidents were driven by “a desire to create conflict.” He added that he was putting together a task force with members of four federal agencies to monitor the situation. 

At least 40 people were arrested over the long weekend for looting supermarkets and convenience stores Mendoza, Córdoba, Neuquén, and Buenos Aires City. On Tuesday, 56 people were arrested for robbery and attempted robbery in supermarkets in several Greater Buenos Aires suburbs. 

“This is not a coincidence, and not like situations we’ve seen in the past, where people found themselves in dire need and decided to do things they might not have wanted to, but were pushed to out of desperation,” said Fernández, in reference to past looting during severe economic crises, like hyperinflation in 1989 or the 2001 crisis that led to the resignation of President Fernando de la Rúa.  

“What we see here is a desire to create some sort of conflict, and we tried to stop it. Those who stepped out of bounds were arrested and will be brought to Justice,” said the minister, who declined to identify any suspects. 

Regarding the steps to follow, the Security Minister said his department would create a special task force made up for four federal agencies (Federal Police, Naval Police, Military Police and Airport Security Police) to coordinate responses to incidents. Fernández added that local police in districts affected by serial robberies or looting will also be called to participate. 

Responses to the looting

Presidential spokesperson Gabriela Cerruti tweeted on Tuesday evening questioning whether the incidents registered up to that point constituted looting and claiming that the images circulating on social media were false. She blamed groups associated with libertarian electoral frontrunner Javier Milei. “There are rumors and agitation via WhatsApp groups because they are profoundly democratic and want to destabilize [the situation],” she wrote.

The governors of Mendoza and Neuquén, Rodolfo Suárez and Omar Gutiérrez, warned that the incidents in their provinces were linked to “a group of instigators.”

“[The looters] are small groups of people with criminal records. The instigation came via social media, and we’re investigating who’s behind it all,” said Gutiérrez, adding that, from a legal standpoint, the incidents are not considered looting. “It’s clear that someone led people to places where there’s no police, then automatically records the incident and uploads the footage to social media.”

Suárez sent a message to Mendoza citizens via social media, warning that the Whatsapp messages calling for looting are “fake, malicious and cowardly, and orchestrated by someone.”

The opposition also commented on the incidents. Juntos por el Cambio (JxC) presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich said that “the only way out of chaos is with order,” while Javier Milei expressed his dismay. “To see the same images of looting we saw in 2001 twenty years later is tragic. Poverty and looting are two sides of the same coin,” he tweeted. 

– with information from Télam


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