March 12, 2014
Police strike in 3 provinces
After Córdoba, fears grow that looting will spread
Police officers in at least three provinces called a strike yesterday demanding better salaries, which has put authorities on alert at the possibility that a crime wave, including possible episodes of looting, as took place in Córdoba earlier in the week.
In the northern province of Catamarca, at least three were injured following clashes yesterday when some 200 striking officers tried to enter the government palace and were later dispersed by border guards.
In the southern province of Neuquén, police officers took over the police headquarters while their representatives negotiated a wage increase. A similar situation was taking place in Río Negro.
Catamarca Governor Lucía Corpacci acknowledged yesterday evening that it is “impossible” to comply with the wage increase the police officers were demanding. She assured that security is “guaranteed,” Corpacci also said her government had issued a new wage offer, but emphasized it was less than the 10,000 pesos officers were demanding.
The latest examples of police uprisings came a day after a night of tension in the province of La Rioja, where police officers called for a strike and there were reports of lootings. The conflict only lasted several hours but it was enough for 15 people to be arrested, accused of looting in the city of La Rioja.
In the end, the provincial government agreed to a wage hike of 3,000 pesos.
The government said yesterday it will implement prevention measures in order to avoid a contagion effect of the looting that took place in Argentina’s second-largest city.
The lootings in Córdoba led the provincial government to concede a big salary hike to police officers of at least 30 percent of the basic wages. That has led to concern police officers across the country will seek similar levels of wage hikes.
The federal government yesterday decided to send border guards to Córdoba. Security Secretary Sergio Berni arrived in Córdoba City, saying he would join Governor José Manuel de la Sota’s “crisis committee” in the province.
“The border guards will complement the work of the provincial police in order to guarantee peace in the province,” Berni told to press as soon as he arrived to Córdoba airport.
In Catamarca, a province ruled by Kirchnerite Lucía Corpacci, police officers were demanding a wage hike that could improve their basic salary to 10,000 pesos as current officers were also joined by retired policemen.
Demonstrators started to negotiate with provincial Government (Interior) Minister Gustavo Saadi and with Security Secretary Juan Pablo Morales. The province has offered 8,000 pesos but this offer was rejected.
While the clashes were taking place between the officers and border guards there were two looting attempts, while stores pulled down their shutters while facing looting threats.
Meanwhile, police officers in Neuquén called for an open-ended strike yesterday, demanding a minimum wage of 12,000 pesos. Provincial government officials were quick to highlight that the security of Nequén City is “guaranteed” while both sides negotiate.
Even provinces that did not experience problems yesterday expressed concern.
In Mendoza, for example, there was neither a strike nor looting, yet Governor Francisco Pérez, acknowledged that the province is currently “on alert.”
Mayors “were informed that even though we haven’t been informed of any criminal activity there is still a chance there will be looting and riots in Mendoza at the end of the year,” Pérez said.
National reaction after Córdoba lootings
Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said yesterday at his daily press conference that the Government is implementing various measures in order to fight the looting.
The violent episodes seen in Córdoba 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. “I experienced lootings when I was governor of Chaco so I know what this is about.”
Besides, the Cabinet Chief confirmed governor De la Sota contacted him to request the deployment of border guards to Córdoba.
“I talked numerous times with Governor De la Sota yesterday,” Capitanich also said, following accusations that the government was ignoring the provincial government’s call for help because of their political differences.
A total of 136 people have been arrested in Córdoba, accused of looting.
Capitanich also warned that “there are several organizations rioting and we must fight them to guarantee the peace” and highlighted that in some places the crime organizations have ties with drug-trafficking, noting that “even (Santa Fe Governor Antonio) Bonfatti mentioned that as a possibility.”
Security Secretary Sergio Berni carried on an inspection of the 1,200 border guards that arrived in Córdoba due to Governor José Manuel De la Sota’s request.
“Governor de la Sota asked that the border guards were today in Córdoba so we sent them here to work together with the local police,” Berni said after a meeting with Córdoba’s governor.
“According to the law, the governor has to ask the federal government to sent the border guard since federal forces cannot be in a province without a proper authorization,” Berni explained to local media.
Herald with DyN,Télam