March 9, 2014
Córdoba crisis expands amid strike threats
Santa Fe, Buenos Aires province worry uprising may extend to their districts
Concern spread across several provincial governments yesterday about the potential of lootings to spread after Córdoba was engulfed by chaos earlier in the week.
The violent episodes seen in the country’s second-largest city are not driven by need, but rather are “deliberately produced,” Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said yesterday.
“Motives may be political or not political — but are rooted in criminal actions,” the Kirchnerite official added.
Statements and measures — especially from Santa Fe and Buenos Aires province officials — came to light as several groups of public workers from Córdoba launched a 48-hour strike following the wage hike the José Manuel de la Sota administration granted police forces, which could very weel translate into a worsening of the province’s social crisis.
The measure, which also affects provincial hospitals, will begin today and continue on Monday, the Public Workers Union (SEP) revealed yesterday.
Teachers could also join the protest if De la Sota refuses to award them the 52-percent pay increase his government offered police officers early in the week, the union said yesterday afternoon.
Meanwhile, provincial police forces said that at least 96 people were arrested for looting and robbery following this week’s police strike.
Suspects were identified through security cameras and posts on social networks, police inspector Gabriel Álvarez said in a news conference.
“Ninety-nine percent of looters who were displaying stolen items on Facebook have been arrested,” Álvarez claimed.
On Wednesday morning, following the most violent episodes, the official arrest figure was 52.
Police have seized alcoholic beverages, electronics and other objects, the inspector added.
Images of looting brought up memories of the social uprisings across the country in 1989 and 2001. However, both the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration and opposition leaders agree that the current context is different and that episodes of the last days have either had a political or criminal background.
Similar episodes were seen in 2012 — and authorities blamed it on criminal activity rather than social problems.
Yesterday, the government decided to carry out preventive deployment of security forces in the Buenos Aires province and other districts.
Police wage hike ‘affected
Back in Córdoba, SEP head José Pihen said the strike was justified because the government’s proposal to a demand for a year-end bonus was deemed “inadequate.”
“The strike, which includes a series of protest rallies, was decided by the union seeing the lack of government response to our demands,” Pihen told radio Cadena 3.
SEP Health Secretary Alejandro Soria explained the measure will also take place during the weekend, but with employees attending the workplace.
“On Tuesday we will call for an assembly and decide on a government proposal — if there is one,” Soria told Radio Mitre Córdoba.
Meanwhile, Juan Monserrat, leader of the Unión de Educadores teachers’ union, said the government’s acceptance of the officers’ demand for 13,000 pesos a month “will surely have an effect” on the ongoing negotiations between the provincial government and the teachers’ union.
“If this week does not end with a reasonable negotiation, classes will finish early (this year),” he said.
A union meeting will take place Monday.
Bonfatti against police
Meanwhile, the government of Santa Fe province filed a lawsuit against an organization made up of former police officers grouped in a so-called union, for “calling for an uprising” of security forces similar as the one that took place in Córdoba.
Governor Antonio Bonfatti yesterday revealed he has submitted the lawsuit in the Rosario City courts against the Asociación Profesional Policial Santa Fe (Apropol), who was encouraging a police strike.
“I accused this so-called Apropol organization, which is not formally recognized as a union and is conformed by people that was dismissed from the force,” Bonfatti said.
Berni creates ‘prevention
Security Secretary Sergio Berni and Buenos Aires province Security Minister Alejandro Granados yesterday announced the creation of an prevention “command” to guarantee citizen safety in the district.
Provincial and national security forces are firmly working to prevent any looting in the upcoming weeks, Granados confirmed.
“We are rapidly responding to mayors’ calls who all remain in a state of alert,” Granados told reporters.
Threats of looting in the province are produced by the “usual outlaws,” he added.
The country’s most populous province is facing power outages as a result of the strong storm that struck several areas earlier this week.
The situation worsened Wednesday when the owner of a supermarket in the province district of Glew died when he tried to prevent his shop from being looted by a group of 50 people who set the place on fire. The man suffocated inside.
Herald with AP, Télam
Provincial security minister explains reaction
Córdoba Security Minister Alejandra Monteoliva explained yesterday her response to the looting on Wednesday, saying she “decided not to reveal that the Border Guard had not responded because it would have created chaos.” Due to the incidents, Monteoliva was asked in an interview at Cadena 3, following the night of looting, if calling the Border Guard was necessary or not and she said that she “was evaluating the situation and establishing a contingency plan.” Yet, according to a timeline later outlined by Córdoba Governor José Manuel de la Sota, the provincial government had already requested the federal government send border guards to the province at the time Monteoliva was on the air.