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April 21, 2014
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Death toll from looting increases to eight

Situation appears to be returning to normal in most of the country as strikes end

Police strikes sowed chaos across many of Argentina’s cities again yesterday, with the death count rising to at least eight. Politicians from left and right appealed for calm as looters kept stealing merchandise and business owners fought with roving mobs.
The strikes were reported to have been reduced to three provinces — Chubut, Mendoza and Tierra del Fuego — down from the estimate of at least 13 earlier in the week, with governors forced to raise wages to an average floor of 8,500 pesos.
Hospital and political authorities said at least eight people have been killed in a week of disturbances set off by strikes by police, who demanded pay increases, the first of which took place in Córdoba. They included a police officer in northern Chaco province who was struck by a bullet below his protective vest yesterday.
The others allegedly died while looting. One young man was electrocuted while stealing from an appliance store in a rainstorm. Another fell off a motorcycle while carting off a television. A third died in a fistfight inside a ruined store.
Hundreds of other people have been injured and thousands of businesses damaged in the scattered violence that took place across the country. In some cities, public transportation was shut down and public hospitals were turning away non-emergency patients for fear of being looted.
The demands of striking police went far beyond pay hikes: the deal Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli offered to rebellious officers on Monday night included an amnesty that would wipe out sanctions for many rule-breaking officers and make them eligible for 14,000 promised promotions this month. It also enables officers who retired on 90 percent pay to return to work, effectively doubling their old salaries.

Capitanich shoulders
responsibility
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had not yet commented about the weeklong violence at press time, leaving Jorge Capitanich, who took leave as Chaco’s governor to become her Cabinet chief, to publicly shoulder the responsibility.
But with an officer dead in Capitanich’s home province yesterday, it was clear that no  politician is immune from the looting, which has intensified at nightfall over the past week. Capitanich met with Córdoba Governor José Manuel de la Sota for a news conference yesterday, condemning what they called treasonous acts by a minority of officers.
To help finance the pay raises, Capitanich announced a three-month delay in the debt payments most Argentine provinces would have to otherwise make by month’s end.
“The Argentine people want peace and harmony. Demands of this nature go beyond any expected limits,” Capitanich said. “To be a police officer means carrying weapons to protect the citizens, not to generate anxiety among the people and use extortion against their elected leaders.”

Hot spots
Officers and their relatives marched to the Legislature of Mendoza as a wage offer was analyzed but rejected by a large part of them.
Two people died in Tucumán overnight and 100 were injured as San Miguel de Tucumán, and several parts of the province were looted. The province was the main hub of violence, with schools and businesses still shut at press time.
The conflict was resolved by 8pm, after Governor José Alperovich’s offer was accepted at Government House. Earlier the governor had called for the force to resume patrols, as citizens took to the streets to demand peace.
Federal security forces remained deployed to hot spots and officers were warned that instigators of violence would face stiff penalties.
Entre Ríos Governor Sergio Urribarri blamed the violence in the provincial city of Concordia on a small group of 50 officers, “most of them with bad records,” and vowed to have them prosecuted for “sedition, a crime against the democratic system.” Urribari assured that everything had returned to normal.
But in province after province, even governors who restored momentary calm by agreeing to steep police pay raises seemed wary of declaring victory. With consumer prices rising at more than 25 percent this year, concerns over possible strikes by public health workers were also spreading.
De la Sota, who effectively doubled police salaries to 12,000 pesos a month said Argentina’s 23 governors and Buenos Aires City mayor should agree on a unified salary scale for security forces nationwide to avoid more trouble.
“This didn’t happen because of hunger. There were criminal gangs involved and later there was pillaging” even by middle-class people, De la Sota said. “We need to reflect on this. There were people who didn’t steal milk, but cans of beer and televisions that they carried off in trucks.”
At 7pm, the lawyer representing Santa Fe province police announced they had accepted a wage floor of 8,100 pesos “for the sake of social peace,” adding “one is never satisfied.”
Several areas of the province were absent of police overnight, leading to more looting, closed shops and the suspension of public transport, the latter of which was restored in the morning.
Acting Chaco Governor Juan Carlos Bacileff announced the top-ranks of the provincial police would be “deeply cleansed,” after the conflict was resolved in the morning. A 23-year-old was killed during the looting in the province.
Another accord was reached in Jujuy, where Governor Eduardo Fellner said he would take full responsibility for the developments, a rare statement amid so much blame-placing on others throughout the country.
Alejandro Bossatti, a youngster between 17 and 18-years-old, died while a sports store was looted in Perico, 35 kilometres outside the provincial capital. A wage hike to 8,500 was agreed.
In Entre Ríos, Governor Sergio Urribarri assured that everything had returned to normal after the main strike in the city of Concordia came to an end.
In Catamarca, Police Chief Julio César Gutiérrez confirmed an officer had been suspended for having fired his weapon at the provincial Government House on Friday during a wage protest by Border Guards.
Herald with DyN, Télam, AP
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