April 21, 2014
Thursday, December 5, 2013

Days of fury in Córdoba end with one dead

Neighbours gather to defend their stores from looters in Córdoba.

Accusations between provincial, federal government as looting fizzles in second-largest city

The wave of looting that spread over the last two days across the country’s second-largest city following a police strike for higher pay ended yesterday with one person dead and several stores destroyed.

Violence in Córdoba, primarily in the provincial capital’s periphery, began Tuesday night and continued yesterday morning, with storefronts shattered, mobs stealing merchandise, robbers attacking people in the streets and vigilantes arming themselves to protect their homes.

More supermarkets and a mobile television van recording the violence were attacked this morning, even as officers and provincial authorities began negotiations to end the strike.

Hospital authorities reported one shooting death and more than 100 injuries, mostly from shattered glass.

Described as “no-man’s land” in the absence of police, all types of incidents were seen. For instance, a few members of the soccer club Instituto de Córdoba took up arms and guarded its headquarters from looting.

salary hike granted

Governor Jose Manuel de la Sota said before going into negotiations with police that 56 people had been arrested in the violence.

He claims he offered a 52-percent pay increase, including bonuses for patrol work or extra duty, for a total of 12,600 pesos a month, which he called “the best police salary in Argentina,” according to Córdoba’s newspaper La Voz del Interior.

Miguel Ortiz, a lawyer representing the police, told reporters that the provincial government had “verbally” accepted the officers’ demand for a bit more — 13,000 pesos.

Provincial police officers will now received an average salary of 10,000 pesos.

De la Sota also said the strike was a police response to his decision to close 140 brothels that provide income to corrupt officers.

“We know that this, which is a terrible, horrible, business, is linked to drug trafficking and that it would bring us problems sooner or later,” the governor said.

De la Sota, a centre-right Peronist rival of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner who has long complained that his province has been deprived of its corresponding share of national resources, returned from an official trip to Colombia when he became aware that violence had broken out. He claimed the presidency denied his government’s initial appeals for help.

Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich denied turning away any requests for assistance, and said the national government had been monitoring the situation while the governor was out of the country. He said De la Sota was trying to shift the blame for a problem that was entirely his responsibility.

National Security Chief Sergio Berni revealed that 2,000 border guards would be deployed in Córdoba by yesterday afternoon to help restore the peace, but the order was subsequently withdrawn as looting died down.

Things turn political

After the wage hike was agreed and a relatively normal situation in the province resumed, De la Sota lashed out at the federal government in a news conference, stating that next week he will visit the Pink House to “demand what is owed” the province in terms of funding, a conflict likely to be accentuated by the hike in public spending by the province that will follow yesterday’s wage increase.

The Córdoba governor will meet with Capitanich as part of the latter’s scheduled rounds of talks with provincial leaders.

Yet there was already plenty of back-and-forth between the provincial and federal governments.

“We couldn’t do anything until the Córdoba governor took charge of the situation and asked for help officially,” Berni said.

De la Sota called for help via Twitter at 4am, but Berni claimed the government only received an official fax request at 8am.

The governor retorted by publishing an official letter he claimed to have sent the Kirchnerite administration, which logged unanswered phone calls to Buenos Aires.

Communication breakdown

Capitanich confirmed that he and De la Sota will analyze real-time monitoring to establish mechanisms of collaboration and a communication channel between Berni and Security Secretary María Cecilia Rodríguez with the province, but insisted “we cannot take on others’ responsibilities.”

Also out against Córdoba’s dissident Peronist administration was Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo, who described De la Sota’s attitude as “miserable and irresponsible,” arguing the latter had attempted to project responsibility onto the national government when the issue was “clearly provincial in character.”

Earlier, Capitanich spoke in the same vein, saying that the national government could not interfere in such wage negotiations, the conflict that sparked nearly 48 hours of chaos.

It was provincial Cabinet Chief Oscar González who recognized that organizational deficiencies had played a part in the conflict’s escalation.

“There was probably an insufficient evaluation of the situation” by the provincial government, “and that in part derived in this scenario,” he said.

Nonetheless, González claimed that attempts to communicate “with the Security minister and the Cabinet chief yesterday evening and during the night were unanswered.”

Public services affected

Taxi services were gradually normalized yesterday evening, but all bus transport will only resume today. Córdoba Teletaxis Association head Jorge Montes said they had only resumed the service due to the lack of any other form of transportation for the public.

Meanwhile, the Córdoba government has requested supermarket chambers to survey damages to stores to determine appropriate subsidies and loans as relief.

—Herald with DyN, Télam

Shop owner killed in Glew

Headlines about looting seemingly encouraged opportunists in other regions, leading to a fatality in the Buenos Aires province town of Glew, where a Chinese supermarket owner was killed and two teenagers injured by gunshot during the assault on the shop. Fifty-six-year old Lin Jang Xuan was attacked at 9pm Tuesday, with the shop owner fighting back with his own firearm. At the time of the murder, the area was still experiencing a blackout caused by Monday’s storm.

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