At least 130 people were injured and one killed following mass looting and vandalism by gangs of youths, who took over several parts of Cordoba City in Argentina. The lawlessness was a result of the police going on strike over low pay.
A young man around 20 years old has died from a gunshot wound to his chest, imneuquen.com.ar reports. More than 50 people who took part in the looting have been detained. Twelve of the 130 who were wounded sustained their injuries from firearms.
After the news of the strike broke Tuesday, looters quickly appeared in the streets, going primarily for the supermarkets and small stores, which rapidly shut their doors. Targets included clothing stores, sporting goods, toy stores, bike shops, and branches of cell phone companies. Local media termed the city ‘virtually paralyzed’.
Sticks and stones were used as windows were smashed and goods were looted. Armed gangs of youths on bikes, including women, incapacitated traffic.
On Wednesday bus services and other public transport stopped operating, citing fear of crime and passengers being mugged. Bank also closed for security reasons. “Until there are cops on the street, do not go,” instructed Alfredo Penaloza of local tram union, Unión Tranviarios Automotor (UTA).
In the ensuing confusion, there were “rumors of a riot at the Bower San Martin prison, but nothing has been confirmed yet,” Alerta 24, a Twitter user, reported.
Benjamin Blanch, vice-president of the Chamber of Supermarkets in Cordoba, spoke to local media, telling them that there was “immeasurable theft” going on. The authorities have “lost count of the number of people affected,” he said.
The governor of Cordoba Province, Jose Manuel de la Sota, put the blame on law enforcement, whose members gave an ultimatum to make authorities accept their wage proposal. De la Sota was traveling in Panama , bound for Colombia, and interrupted his vacation in order to settle a new wage.
Authorities have negotiated a 52 percent rise in salary with law enforcement, which numbers about 6,000 officers in the area.
The police chiefs held an emergency meeting around midnight to try and find a solution to the conflict, but negotiations failed again. A raise was reached later on Wednesday.
De la Sota told String3 radio he may be “forced” to apply “warnings and suspensions to exemptions or layoffs.”
De la Sota was on a trip to Colombia when the unrest started, and returned to Argentina to take charge and pull the region out of the crisis. “We repeat – send the Gendarmerie into Cordoba at once. What is happening in the city requires urgent attention,” he said earlier on his Twitter account, appealing to Buenos Aires to send reinforcements.
Later in the day, Argentine authorities sent two thousand gendarmes in the province, according to an announcement made by Security Secretary, Sergio Berni. He stated that the riot police were being dispatched to cope with the “moment of helplessness, the product of political uncertainties.”
The President’s Cabinet Chief, Jorge Capitanich, previously said that the province must resolve the situation on its own, though the federal government is monitoring the situation.
“We can’t interfere in a matter of provincial jurisdiction related to a salary protest,” Capitanich told reporters in Buenos Aires. “It’s very easy to govern transferring responsibilities to others.”
Cordoba City is one of the oldest in Argentina, its population numbering 1.5 million. The province heavily depends on manufacturing and agriculture for its subsistence and has become rich from it.
However, the province has faced repeated delays and cutbacks in financing from the federal government. As a result, it has been plagued by continuous social and political strife, as well as financial troubles.
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