Monday, April 22, 2024

ARGENTINA | 26-03-2024 15:16

Pope Francis sends message to Rosario shaken by narco threats

Pope Francis records message denouncing “complicity by the political, judicial and economic powers” following escalation of violence in Rosario. Pontiff calls for dialogue with political forces and wider society.

Pope Francis has sent a message of solidarity to crime-ridden Rosario, warning against the apparent “complicity” that has allowed violence and narco-trafficking to thrive there.

In the midst of a new surge of criminal behaviour, threats and homicides, the Argentine pontiff sent a message recorded and broadcast from the Vatican, in which he called on wider society and the authorities to protect residents.

“There’s a great task ahead in the corporate sector, not only to prevent complicity in business with mafia organisations, but also in their social commitment,” the pontiff formerly known as Jorge Bergoglio said in a video posted on the Vatican News YouTube channel.

“Without complicity in a sector of the political, police, judicial, economic and financial powers, it wouldn’t be possible to reach this situation,” Francis said.

The remarks come after a new wave of threats in Rosario. On Monday, the family of national team star Ángel Di María, who plays for Benfica in Portugal, were sent a warning note.

Pope Francis called “to work not only on the supply, but also the demand of drugs through prevention and assistance policies.”

“The state’s silence in this matter only naturalises and facilitates the promotion of their consumption and marketing,” he argued.

Francis offered support for the government’s decision to send extra security forces and members of the Armed Forces to assist operations in the troubled city.

At this time of crisis, “we understand the need for the presence of security forces to put the community at ease,” he said.

The pontiff said that “in the road to peace” comprehensive responses must be walked through with the cooperation of “all the institutions comprising the life of a society.”

“Nobody who has good will can feel or be excluded from the task to make Rosario a safe place,” he stated.

Francis’ comments come amid a huge wave of drug-violence, with at least five individuals killed in the last two weeks. 

On Tuesday, Santa Fe Province Security Minister Pablo Cococcioni revealed that after the threat to the Di María family, there were five other similar events in Rosario: four warnings delivered to points related to the public transport system and one in a supermarket.

“The first one was a sign with threats, without any physical attacks. In the others there were attacks. The method and whether firearms were used are being investigated,” said Cococcioni, without going into further details.

The threats target “journalists, politicians, ourselves [provincial officials] and also unions. They are messages we have got used to with these criminals,” Cococcioni added.

Public transport services, including buses, and private taxis in the city were halted on Tuesday amid strong fear of new attacks.

Police believe the threats, including the one targeting the Di María family, is part of an attempt to cause a political commotion. Last year there was a shootout at a shop owned by the in-laws of national team captain Lionel Messi.

Rosario, one of the biggest cities in Argentina with 1.3 million inhabitants and 300 kilometres away from Buenos Aires, has been heavily affected by drug violence. Transport problems have continued, while some schools have shut doors and cancelled classes. 

Many businesses have also shuttered in the wake of four murders, which the local provincial government blamed on drug-dealing gangs whose chiefs are incarcerated.

Earlier this month, the Argentine Synod published an open letter calling for unity during difficult times. 

“As bishops of the Church in Argentina, you should know, from the bottom of our hearts, that we’re close to you given this reality of drug-dealing now knocking on your doors in this terrible, brutal way, bringing pain and impotence to your families and our entire people,” it read.

In a call for resistance and hope, they asked society to remain unified. 

“Drugs are killing us and we need to stay together to disarm this ‘evil’ which scorns life and shows no mercy with our children, youths and so many innocent people,” said the Synod.



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