Argentina’s government is expected to announce an “important” reinforcement of security forces in Rosario in the coming days, given an uptick in drug-related violence in recent weeks.
A key trial against local drug gang Los Monos is underway in the largest city of Santa Fe Province, which authorities believe is related to a string of threats, violence and attacks. According to the Rosario3 news portal, police responded to three separate reports of gunshots just last Sunday, with one incident taking place just four blocks from local judicial headquarters. The previous day, a 19-year-old was shot dead in a drive-by shooting in the south of the city.
"This week is going to be important for announcements, because we have already made a decision in this regard," said Security Minister Aníbal Fernández on Saturday, when asked about the situation in Rosario.
Speaking to local radio station AM 750, the minister said that an “in-depth analysis” of the situation had been conducted, but that “a couple more meetings” were still to take place to finalise details.
"Everything that Rosario is was the result of an analysis with [director of the Santa Fe investigations agency] Marcelo Sain, we know each other a lot," said the official.
Drug violence in Rosario has picked up in recent weeks, coinciding with the trial of Los Monos gang leader Ariel Máximo ‘Guille’ Cantero.
Questioned in court as to his employment status during the first hearing back in August, the accused responded that he had “various jobs,” including hiring “hitmen to fire shots at judges.”
Around three weeks later, judicial authorities received a threat via an emergency phone line warning them to “release Los Monos or we will kill all the prosecutors.”
Security for the four prosecutors was subsequently beefed up by the authorities. The judges trialling the case already had increased protection, given previous threats against them.
Cantero is accused of participating in the planning of at least seven attacks on the homes of judges, police officers, judicial buildings and the headquarters of the investigative police.
According to prosecutors, in total Los Monos have organised and carried out at least 12 shooting attacks on local judicial headquarters and the homes of officials who participated in investigations and trials into the group’s alleged crimes.
Two of the alleged attacks took place on May 29, 2018 on homes belonging to Judge Ismael Manfrin, a member of the court that had convicted members of Los Monos.
Attacks on four locations linked to Judge Marisol Usandizaga, another member of the court, took place shortly afterwards.
Among the charges against him, ‘Guille’ Cantero stands accused of being part of the conspiracy that organised an attack on the Criminal Justice Centre headquarters on August 4, 2018.
Last Friday, security forces in Rosario carried out 36 raids on addresses allegedly relating to a criminal organisation dedicating to money-laundering funds raised from drug-trafficking and cigarette-smuggling, among other businesses.