Residents of the city of Rosario have reacted with fury after an unidentified gunman shot dead 12-year-old Máximo Jérez and injured three other children after they left a birthday party in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Jérez was shot in the back at around 2:30 a.m. outside a kiosk in the Empalme Graneros neighborhood, in northwestern Rosario.
A 2-year-old girl and two 13-year-olds were also shot and are currently in hospital, a spokesperson from the Provincial Security Ministry told the Herald.
“We are close to finding the person responsible for the murder, as it was a confrontation between two gangs related to drug dealing,” said Adrián Spelta, in charge of Santa Fe provincial prosecution ministry’s homicide office in a press statement. “They shot repeatedly across the street, aiming at a man related to one of the gangs – we can’t give names.”
According to Spelta, attacks like these show a change in the codes and practices among gangs, who traditionally avoided violent attacks around children. He stressed that none of the victims or their families had any ties to the attack, or the criminals from the gangs involved.
In a TV interview, Máximo’s father, Julio Jérez, described the scene of the shooting as “a shower of bullets”.
“You can’t sit and drink mate on the street, because they might come and shoot you,” he said, referring to the violence in his neighbourhood.
The prosecution is currently investigating the case and conducting ballistic, laboratory and camera analyses. No arrests have been made so far.
After Maximo’s funeral on Monday at noon, neighbors attacked the house of a man who is allegedly linked to the gang responsible for the murder. They threw stones, glass bottles, burned his motorbike, and set fire to the entrance of his house.
The man escaped, and no arrests were made.
After Máximo’s murder, the provincial teacher’s union, AMSAFE, condemned violence against children. “For our student’s safety, we need to ask politicians and the judiciary to carry out real action to defend our territory from the narco-criminal violence that’s going on,” the union said in a statement. “We want schools to be peaceful territories.”
On Sunday night, a school in southern Rosario was shot at a dozen times, according to neighbors. No-one was injured. A note was left, addressed to two members of the “Los Monos” gang, both in prison – Alejandro “Chucky Monedita” Núñez and Fernando “Enano” Morel – that read: “Chuki and Fernando, stop killing cops and women, we’re going to war”. It was signed by “La Mafilia”, a portmanteau of mafia and familia (family).
The insecurity situation in Rosario made international headlines last week, after gunmen shot fourteen times at a supermarket belonging to Messi’s in-laws and left a message threatening the World Cup champion.
Although the case was in the limelight last week, local officials emphasized that Rosario has been facing problems with growing violence and organized crime for nearly two decades. ,
According to the Public Security Observatory of Santa Fe, 288 intentional homicides were committed in Rosario in 2022 and 26 in January 2023. There were 88 in Buenos Aires in 2022, a city nearly three times larger.
Experts told the Herald there has also been an increase in shootings, kidnappings and killings of citizens with no known ties to gangs.
Omar Perotti, Santa Fe’s governor, removed the Security Minister Rubén Rimoldi two weeks ago. He was replaced by Claudio Brilloni, a former gendarme who worked in Rosario provincial security while Patricia Bullrich was security minister.