July 23, 2014
Park squatting again displays housing deficit
Three years after the takeover of the Indoamericano Park that left three people dead, a new land grab took place in the early hours of yesterday in a neighbouring patch of land, leading to clashes that ended with the death of one person.
The new takeover appears as a stark reminder of the little progress state authorities have taken the last few years to improve housing conditions in Buenos Aires City ever since that conflict three years ago which led to the creation of the Security Ministry.
Late last night, the people who were attempting a land grab were still there and had demarcated the area where they wanted to build their houses while, at press time, they were still waiting for an answer from the authorities. Border Guard agents and members of the Metropolitan Police were still deployed at the scene, although there was no eviction order yet.
Víctor Hugo Núñez, the spokesman for the takeover, said they feared an eviction but vowed not to leave the area.
The southern end of Buenos Aires City is where the poor state of housing conditions is most evident. This time, dozens of families moved to try to take over an area in the intersection of Pola street and Cruz avenue that has long been a wasteland where the Federal Police used to send the cars seized during raids.
Thirty-year-old Osvaldo Soto, a man who lived in neighbouring Villa 20 — an impoverished area in Villa Soldati — was shot dead, allegedly in a fight with a neighbour. The attacker fled after the shooting.
Some neighbours who witnessed the attack requested the help of Border Guards who were deployed there, according to La Nación. They knocked on the Border Guards’ van but they did not receive any response. The neighbours stopped a bus number 150 to take Soto to the nearest hospital but he died before arriving there.
Security Secretary Sergio Berni took a leading role in the intervention and headed a controversy with a misdemeanour prosecutor, reviving the controversy whether federal forces or those from the City should be in charge of the intervention.
Berni harshly criticized prosecutor Carlos Rolero yesterday, saying he was ready to intervene by midnight but the prosecutor apparently did not want to get going until after 8am.
“The City government didn’t show up either,” Berni added. “It seems prosecutors want to stay in bed late.”
Reviving his long-term controversy with the City’s judiciary, Berni accused the prosecutor of not having a social commitment.
Berni had a leading role during the takeover at the Indoamericano Park in December 2010, when three people were killed. On December 3, 2010, families peacefully occupied the piece of land, demanding solutions to their housing problems. Four days later, City judge Cristina Nazar ordered a raid and an eviction by a joint operation of the Federal and Metropolitan police.
That repression led to the death of Rossemary Chura Puña (28) and Bernardo Salgueiro (24).Takeovers stayed in the place for a couple of days more. On December 9, a group of hooligans arrived and opened fire against the people demanding housing solutions, killing Emiliano Canaviri (38).
Berni, who was then an official at the Social Development Ministry led by Alicia Kirchner, and he was who personally controlled the operation to regularize takeovers at the Indoamericano Park. In less than 40 hours, officials from the Social Development Ministry headed by Berni and the current Security Minister Cecilia Rodríguez took a census of more than 5,800 people who did not have a house and had been violently evicted by the Metropolitan Police.
Yesterday, a new takeover brought him back to the neighbourhood of Villa Soldati. As CELS and other human rights organizations have been pointing out, improving housing conditions is still a pending issue for all governments.
“We have been at the Indoamericano Park takeover and now we are here again,” one of the women in Villa Soldati yesterday said. “We haven’t received an answer, that is why we are here again.”
In 2009, Judge Andrés Gallardo ordered the Federal Police to remove the junk from that wasteland, clearing the place for buildings. The southern area of the piece of land was in hands of the City’s Housing Institute (IVC), whereas the northern area was controlled by the Federal Police.
Four years before Judge Gallardo ordered the cleaning up of the area, a bill was passed to offer a solution to housing problems. Law 1770 sponsored the urbanization of the Villa 20, where many of the land grabs originate.
Late last night, talks between the prosecutor and those who are launching the takeovers were still in progress.
Herald staff with Télam, DyN