Argentina’s government has confirmed the deployment of more than 1,500 new federal agents in Rosario, with officials declaring that “a solution must be found” to violence in the crime-ridden city.
Accompanied by Santa Fe Governor Omar Perotti, Interior Minister Eduardo ‘Wado’ de Pedro and Security Minister Aníbal Fernández, Cabinet Chief Juan Manzur held a Casa Rosada press conference on Tuesday to announce new security measures for Santa Fe Province.
Fernández, installed as security minister earlier this month, confirmed that 575 federal agents would be sent to Rosario for the next two or three weeks following a surge in multiple drug-related crimes there, though he also urged the need for far more intelligence work to confront the criminals.
The security minister added that the transfer of the agents would be "immediate," while further announcing the creation of a new Unidad 7 flying squad within the Border Guard with 1,000 officers, who would be arriving in the province soon and would remain there permanently.
"That’s important news for Santa Fe. We’re restoring security to the province and that takes time," affirmed Perotti, who travelled to Buenos Aires on Monday to lead talks on the issue.
“The signal is very clear: Argentina cannot permit these things to happen in its territory,” added the Peronist governor.
Drug-related crime and violence shows no sign of letting up in Rosario, with three people killed and four wounded in shooting attacks in less than four hours on Monday. So far this year, at least 171 homicides have been recorded by the authorities.
Addressing the press, Manzur said Tuesday that President Alberto Fernández had instructed his Cabinet to "redouble efforts to boost security in Santa Fe” Province, insisting: "It’s a concrete sign of a national government decision to take this issue as our own, a responsibility clearly defined by the president when he [recently] visited Santa Fe."
Aníbal Fernández said that the move to deploy additional members of the security forces is a key stage in the battle drug-related crime and violence, which he said affected the whole country.
"We cannot be looking as if it were a purely and exclusively a city situation. It is a problem that concerns all Argentines. Either we resolve a situation of these characteristics or we are going to see the complications that we have so far grow," he assured.
"Our analysis concludes that we cannot be viewing this situation as something purely affecting a single city, it’s an issue which touches all Argentines,” he added.
“That’s why we’ve made the decision to add 575 agents. It’s not just Rosario and the provincial capital of Santa Fe but also the roads leading from one to the other and also coming from the north," said the 64-year-old.
Along these lines, Fernández added: "The Border Guard develops centres known as mobile units. We’re creating Unidad 7 which is going to live in Rosario, specifically dedicated to the task of fighting against drug-trafficking and organised crime. We’ll be sending 1,500 security personnel there between now and March."
Early last month, the minister’s predecessor, Sabina Frederic ,had ruled out sending security agents to the province, justifying her decision by saying that they were “thin on the ground” and that there were far more murders in the Federal Capital.
“I feel supported by the president, who came to the city [Rosario] and said that he could not permit this to be happening,” said Perotti, a few days before the change of Cabinet.
Drug violence in Rosario has picked up in recent weeks, coinciding with the trial of Los Monos drug gang leader Ariel Máximo ‘Guille’ Cantero.
According to prosecutors, in recent years the gang 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.
Earlier this month, judicial authorities received a threat via an emergency phone line warning them to “release Los Monos or we will kill all the prosecutors” involved in the trial into Cantero’s alleged offences.