Fourteen bullets against Messi’s family’s supermarket
“Messi, we are waiting for you. Javkin is a narco, he will not protect you.” That is the handwritten message found on a note outside a supermarket in the Argentine city of Rosario, Santa Fe province, early Thursday morning. The window of the shop, owned by the family of Lionel Messi’s wife Antonela Roccuzzo, was riddled with fourteen bullets from a handgun. Pablo Javkin is the mayor of the city where the Argentine soccer star is from.
The investigators are groping in the dark. All that is known so far is that the shots came from the gun of an unknown and hooded man who was at the scene of the crime with an accomplice on a motorcycle, as video recordings show. The motive of the perpetrators is unclear. The investigative authorities suspect that the act and the threat against the football star should attract as much attention as possible.
That succeeded. The news spread like wildfire around the world. And in Argentina itself, it triggered a minor state crisis. Mayor Javkin accuses the provincial government and that of Buenos Aires of not taking effective action against organized crime, which has spread massively in Rosario in recent years.
Highest cocaine use per capita in Latin America
The important port city on the Río Paraná with a good 1.3 million inhabitants is not only one of the most important transhipment points for soya from the interior of the country, which is loaded onto dozens of ships there every day. In the past decade, the city has also become a hub of the drug trade that fuels the violence. Rival factions fight for supremacy. The homicide rate in Rosario is among the highest in Argentina. Last year, 288 murders were registered. This year there are already more than 50, the youngest three on Saturday night.
Argentina has become a lucrative outlet for cocaine and its cheap by-products over the past decade. Nowhere in Latin America is per capita consumption higher than Argentina, with Santa Fe province leading the internal statistics. In addition, the country has also become an increasingly important transit country for drug smuggling abroad.
After Colombia and Brazil, Argentina is now the most important export country for cocaine. Rosario plays an important role in this. The city is on Highway 34, which runs from northern Bolivia to Buenos Aires. It serves as a route for the transport of cocaine and coca paste, mainly from Bolivia. The trunk road has therefore been given the meaningful nickname “White Route”.
In Argentina, however, there is not only a good clientele for the drug.
Argentina’s success as a transit country for cocaine is also due to its perforated border, good access to chemicals and the fact that money can be easily laundered here. Rosario is also good for this. In the north of the city, a modern luxury district has emerged in recent years. Many of the apartments are empty and constantly changing hands.
According to local journalists, there are a number of companies in the city whose main purpose is to launder money from drug trafficking. There are also plenty of indications that the authorities, the security forces and even the judiciary are corrupt. In recent years, a number of officials and police officers who are said to be involved with organized crime have been charged. Indications of the presence of Colombian and Mexican cartels in Argentina have also accumulated. In view of the developments a few years ago, Pope Francis spoke of a “Mexicanization” of Argentina.
The subject has been swept under the carpet in Argentina for years. Recent events may change that. After all, the victims are none other than Argentine national hero Lionel Messi and his family. There is something else: there will be elections in Argentina this year. President Alberto Fernández’s left-wing government is in deep trouble, failing to lead the country out of its deep economic crisis. Security in Rosario is also one of the tasks of the government in Buenos Aires and the regional government of the province of Santa Fe, which is also governed by the Peronists.
Mayor Javkin, meanwhile, belongs to the conservative opposition alliance. His criticism of the lack of security is directed at the government. A clear declaration of war also came from former President Mauricio Macri. The incident is another warning to the federal and Santa Fe governments not to coexist with drug dealers, Macri wrote on Twitter. “We have to fight against it. That will change at the end of the year.”
The government, however, is trying to show a reaction. The cells of several detained organized crime leaders were searched on Friday. He is believed to be planning their gangs’ actions with the help of corrupt prison officials. Several police officers were arrested in Rosario on Saturday. The houses of former police chiefs were searched. The judiciary speaks of indications of structural corruption.
Earlier, President Fernández noted that one of Rosario’s security problems was with the police, calling it a “very serious problem” that “something more” needed to be done about. However, a statement by Security Minister Aníbal Fernández, who said on Thursday that the “narcos” had won, caused outrage, even from within their own ranks.