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September 22, 2014
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Berni, Macri raze Lugano slum

Bulldozers are seen clearing the area yesterday after confrontations between residents and police forces.
By Lorenzo Miquel
Herald Staff
Displaced families are taken to government-run shelters, their belongings sent to a warehouse

Residents of the shantytown known as Papa Francisco — a recently-established hub of precarious housing located in the Buenos Aires City neighbourhood of Villa Lugano — were evicted yesterday in a joint operation between the Federal, Metropolitan police and Border Guards. Bulldozers rammed down the makeshift houses in a day marked by violent confrontation. Six people were detained, while hundreds were left wondering where to go.

The ousting was set in motion on Friday night with an eviction notice, issued by Judge Gabriela López Iñíguez. At dawn yesterday, over a thousand officers started to cordon off the grounds. The security forces then entered the shantytown in order to start clearing the area. By noon, the area was ready for bulldozers to raze the settlement.

Confrontations between residents and the police ended up with many hurt, as security forces fired teargas and rubber bullets on the protesters at different times. Approximately ten people were arrested during the clashes, according to witnesses.

Upon their eviction, families started gathering on a nearby boulevard, where city government trucks picked them up in order to relocate them to temporary government shelters. “It was a very sad sight,” said Nicolás Tauber, a lawyer and UBA professor who witnessed the operation since noon to the Herald. Families were apprehensive as to their relocation, but “the government told them to get in the trucks for they would receive a 3,000-peso subsidy,” Tauber added.

Their belongings were taken to a city-owned warehouse near the Parque Patricios neighbourhood. Meanwhile, several families refused to be relocated and stayed at the boulevard demanding a permanent solution to their housing situation.

The UBA professor also said that the whole operative was “really messy,” displaying no clear pattern of action. The observation might prove foreseeable when taking into account Iñiguez’s statement on yesterday’s resolution. She said: “the eviction will be coordinated considering how circumstances unfold.”

For the evicted residents, the relocation offered yesterday by the city government is only a temporary fix. The housing conflict in the city has proved to be an itchy issue for Mayor Mauricio Macri’s administration. During a press conference yesterday, Deputy Mayor María Eugenia Vidal said that the land on which the shantytown Papa Francisco was located will be “cleaned up” starting tomorrow in order to be part of the “Shantytown 20 urbanization plan.”

Governments aligned on eviction

“We won’t allow mobs and drug traffickers to take advantage of people’s needs,” said Vidal during that same press conference. The decision to clear the area shows an agreement with the national Security Secretary Sergio Berni approach to the conflict. Berni on Friday slammed the city government for delaying the operation, deeming the decision an act of cowardice. “We needed to evict that place, it was a nest for criminals,” he said during a radio interview.

Berni’s statements, as well as the actions that ensued yesterday, find their roots in the murder of 17-year-old Melina López on Tuesday in the vicinity of the razed settlement. López was walking with her boyfriend at night when they were assaulted by two armed robbers who shot her at point-blank range.

Shanty-tent revisited

Once again, staff from La Poderosa cooperative — which runs the alternative media magazine La Garganta Poderosa — will mount a “shanty-tent” near the city’s Obelisk to condemn yesterday’s use of force both by national and metropolitan security forces.

The latest “shanty-tent” was up for months at the Obelisk to demand from the city government an urbanization plan for all shantytowns. The tent was finally folded when an alleged agreement with Macri’s administration was reached.

@lorenzomiquil

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