By Fábio Galão
Rosario has become known worldwide as the hometown of Messi, the soccer star who has recently been voted the world’s best soccer player again.
However, it is also gaining international fame for being the most violent city in Argentina – and an episode involving Messi made that clear.
Last week, the supermarket owned by the family of the star’s wife, Antonela Rocuzzo, located in Rosario, was shot at in an incident that left no injuries.
The perpetrators left a message to the Paris Saint-Germain player and the city’s mayor, Pablo Javkin.
“Messi, we are waiting for you. Javkin is also a target; he will not protect you,” the criminals wrote on cardboard that was found in front of the establishment.
The attack on the supermarket was just a sample of the violence plagues Rosario.
In 2022, the city had more than 280 homicides, exceeding the rate of 20 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers violence an epidemic in a region when there are more than ten homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
To get an idea, the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, which has more than 3.1 million residents (Rosario has about 1.3 million), recorded 88 homicides last year, representing a rate of 2.86.
The Security Ministry did not yet compile the data for the whole country in 2022, but in 2021 the homicide rate in all of Argentina was 4.6 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Eugenio Burzaco, the former national security secretary, said in an interview with the Infobae podcast that the violence occurs in Rosario due to the action of significant drug traffickers.
The region is a convergence point of almost all the relevant routes that, from northern Argentina, bring drugs from the main cocaine and cannabis-producing countries.
Another factor is the Paraguay-Paraná Waterway, which, according to Burzaco, “has been transformed from a true trade route for Paraguay, Bolivia, southern Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay into a flyover for cocaine trafficking to Europe.”
“The situation of such marked deterioration that plagues one of the main cities of the country is due to the advance of the trafficking mafias that now control the territory and to a mixture of co-optation and deterioration of the security forces that have handed over, under the passivity of their political administrators, the monopoly of the legitimate use of force,” added the former Secretary of National Security.
After admitting the security crisis in Rosario, President Alberto Fernández authorized the reinforcement of the federal forces present in Rosario, up to 1,400 agents, and the deployment of the Engineers Command, whose main task will be to speed up urbanization works in peripheral neighborhoods.
However, help has taken too long, according to local politicians and analysts.
“In the last ten years, there have been 2,500 murders in Rosario, but nothing has moved the political establishment as much as an almost routine shooting in the city, against the facade of a closed supermarket, without deaths or injuries,” wrote Héctor Gambini, a columnist for Clarín.
In an article with the ironic title “Thanks Messi: the government has discovered Rosario”, Gambini pointed out that in an election year, Fernández finally announced measures to reinforce security in the city “after three years of leaving it abandoned to its fate”.
In an interview with Urbana Play radio, Javkin, the mayor of Rosario, thanked for sending more federal agents but complained about the delay and called for improved security in Argentina’s border areas.
“I can’t believe that the federal forces are not in Argentina’s most important logistical node and, therefore, the place where drug trafficking operates the most. We are part of Argentina; the forces are federal.”
“They have to be at the borders, they have to be at the important ports, and they have to be at the logistical nodes of land reception [of goods],” he justified.
“If there are drugs in Rosario, it’s because they cross the border. If there are weapons in Rosario, it’s because illegal weapons that arrive here are circulating,” Javkin pointed out.
It remains to be seen if this unprecedented attention devoted to Argentina’s third-largest city will last until the October elections and if it will remain after that.
With information from EFE