“Messi, we’re waiting for you,” reads a handwritten note left outside a shop belonging to Lionel Messi’s in-laws in Rosario city, Santa Fe.
“[Mayor Pablo] Javkin is a narco, he won’t protect you.”
The note was left after two unidentified gunmen fired 14 shots at the shop early on Thursday.
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 work in the shop that was attacked this morning. Nobody was hurt in the attack.
Celia Cuccittini, Messi’s mother, said that they were fine and that they have never requested private security in their city.
The incident raised concerns over violence in the city, which has grown in recent years. Javkin said after the attack that “this has been going on for a long time now”, and that “there are five types of armed forces in Rosario, but anyone can do these things because they’re not chased down.”
Javkin added that he believes that the attack was meant to become viral.
“What news in the world could spread faster than an attack against Messi?” he said.
Violence in Rosario
During an event today in Salta, President Alberto Fernández addressed the attack.
“I ordered my Chief of Staff to start working immediately on this,” he said. “We’re doing a lot, but more efforts are needed, apparently: violence and organized crime in Rosario are a truly serious issue.”
Rosario is a major hub for Argentine exports and has become an important port on drug trafficking routes. Gangs have spread throughout the city, leading to a rise in crime and killings.
“There’s a problem with looking at the phenomenon as something from ‘the present’,” Enrique Font, a criminology professor at Rosario University, told the Herald. “This is a crime story that has been going on for over 15 years.”
Font believes Rosario’s problems cannot be understood solely from the perspective of drug-dealing, 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 higher 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.”.
One case shook Rosario citizens recently: the murder of Lorenzo “Jimi” Altamirano, a 28-year-old musician who was shot dead at the entrance of the Newell’s Old Boy’s football stadium on February 1st. Jimi reportedly had no ties to any gangs in the city, nor to Newell’s football team’s hooligans, who are believed to be involved in the case.
Since Jimi was a random victim, his murder sparked fresh concern that violence is being scaled up Santa Fe. The attack on Roccuzzo’s supermarket did not come as a surprise to those who have observed how crime has unfolded in the city with impunity.
Santa Fe’s situation is being discussed publicly by political representatives across the spectrum ahead of the October election. Patricia Bullrich, president of the PRO’ party within the opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio, tweeted today that ”all forces have to be used to take back Rosario from narco control.” Bullrich was the Security Minister between 2015 and 2019 and is expected to run for the presidency this year.
The lack of structural solutions to Rosario’s problems could lead to a far-right turn in local politics, Font warns.
“Soon, we’ll be seeing Salvadoran proposals,” he said, referring to the recent news about President Nayib Bukele opening a jail for gangs in El Salvador where people are put in prison without trial. Reports of human rights violations are widespread.
“It’s been twenty years without concrete answers and that will lead to a more punishing strategy,” said Font. “It’s really bad: there is so much political incompetence that the people’s vulnerability is gigantic.”
Neither Messi nor Roccuzzo have made any public statements after the attacks.