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Rosario is Bleeding: Inside A City’s Struggle Against Violence

7 0 533
06.08.2017

The cries for justice and accountability echoed loudly in the city of Rosario on the evening of 8th September 2016.

Following an August demonstration sparked by the senseless slaying of 22-year-old Marino Bertini, proud rosarinos from all walks of life gathered together again in early September to protest the violence that has plagued the city for the last half-decade. Rosario Sangra – ‘Rosario is Bleeding’ – was the cry. A cold winter’s breeze did little to stop thousands marching in unison to the provincial government headquarters, in a symbolic reclamation of the streets that have been taken from them through a sustained campaign of violence, corruption, and institutional complacency.

“Criminals have taken the streets and deaths are increasing every day. It is impossible to manage!” proclaims Gabriela Giménez, the sister of homicide victim Edgardo Giménez. “The people, us, the families of victims, those who have been touched by this violence, have come out because we can’t bear it anymore. We need a political solution for this to change… we can’t take things into our own hands.”

Edgardo was a 34-year-old shopkeeper living in Granadero Baigorria, a tiny suburb on the northern edge of the city, when he was killed during an attempted robbery in October 2014. He left behind a young wife and two young daughters. “He was working in the family business when five criminals came in and shot at him 32 times, of which two hit him… he was in surgery for six hours before he passed,” says Giménez.

This kind of violence is all too routine for the citizens of Argentina’s third largest city, home to around 1.3m people including the greater Rosario area. With a 2015 murder rate of 12.2 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, the province of Santa Fe has a ratio that far outdistances the next closest province of Buenos Aires (7.4 per 100,000 inhabitants). Rosario, with a 2011-2014 average homicide rate of 17.7, and a 2015 total of 224 murders, is in a league of its own.

In recent years the violence plaguing the city has received its fair share of national, and even international media coverage. The majority of the attention has focused on Rosario’s well-chronicled position as a hub for European-bound narcotics, and the violent disputes that have periodically erupted over control of the drug trade. The buzzword rhetoric is often salacious in nature, and paints the perception of a reality dominated by drugs, gangs, and corruption.

While it is true that drug trafficking does pose a very real threat to the security of Argentina, for those who desire to go beyond vague proclamations of “the new Medellin” or click-bait coverage of Rosario’s “narco-granny”, it is evident that the root causes of violence are more complex and diverse than they appear.

Ju-sti-cia! – Ju-sti-cia! – Ju-sti-cia!

The demands of those who marched in August and September, many of them personally touched by violent crime, were aimed directly at the state institutions responsible for citizen defense and the distribution of justice. Asked for her opinion regarding potential solutions to the violence, Giménez highlighted the complicated relationship between government, law, and the need for judicial will.

“There are punctual solutions, such as effective convictions, but these convictions need to be carried out to full term. Right now, when there are convictions, they [the criminals] only do three years of a 15-year term. They get out early, and they go out and kill again.”

A recent study on this topic by the National University of Rosario indicates that the city suffers from a significant deficiency of judicial resolve. Reviewing homicide cases from two impoverished neighborhoods in Rosario from the period of 2008-2012, the study found that only 22% of homicide cases involving males between the ages 18-25 ended in convictions, with only 55% of cases even having been investigated.

Miguel Angel Pereyra, Rosario resident and father to the slain Marisol Pereyra, also allocated a portion of the blame to the various institutions of state and provincial power:

“The government is an accomplice to all of this, from the state to........

© Argentina Independent