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Argentina boosts security forces in violence-plagued Rosario


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina’s president said Tuesday he will send hundreds more federal security forces to the central city of Rosario where drug violence has drawn international attention due to a recent threat against soccer star Lionel Messi.

The death of an 11-year-old boy over the weekend added alarm and anger in Argentina over the city’s escalating violence, following the written threat left last Thursday when assailants opened fire on a supermarket owned by Messi’s in-laws.

It was unclear why Messi and his relatives were targeted, but officials speculated publicly at the time that it was an attempt by drug traffickers to intimidate the entire community.

On Sunday, the 11-year-old was killed and three other children, including a 2-year-old, were injured in a shooting that officials said was related to turf wars among rival gangs.

President Alberto Fernández announced Tuesday that the federal government will increase the number of federal security forces to the port city to 1,400. Fernandez didn’t specify how many forces that would entail but according to provincial estimate it would double the number currently in the city.

Army engineers also will be sent to help build infrastructure for impoverished neighborhoods, Fernandez said.

“I understand that Rosario needs us,” Fernández said in a recorded video message about the city that is about 300 kilometers (190 miles) north of the capital. “I know that their security forces are insufficient.”

In addition, the president said government will install 600 new surveillance cameras with facial recognition software in Rosario, and open a new branch of its anti-money laundering agency to tackle drug-related financing.

“We’re going to put the authority of the state at center stage to bring community life back to the city,” Fernández said. “We won’t hesitate to combat organized crime.”

Rosaria’s Mayor Pablo Javkin, a politician in opposition to the ruling Peronist coalition, previously had accused the federal government of not doing enough to respond to the city’s violence, which has risen to a level that has historically been rare in Argentina.

Adrián Spelta, the prosecutor in charge of investigating the weekend shooting, said the violence showed that “certain limits that used to exist have been crossed,” noting that the presence of minors would have put the brakes on drug-related shootings in the past.

On Monday, Argentines watched as news channels covered live how neighbors and relatives of the 11-year-old who was killed attacked the alleged suspect in his home. Police detained him and protected him from mob violence, but residents destroyed his home and looted his belongings.

People destroyed at least 3 houses in the area they claimed were used by drug dealers.

Last Thursday, nobody was injured in the early morning attack on the supermarket linked to relatives of Messi, a Rosario native and captain of the national soccer team that just won the World Cup late last year.

But the written message left on a piece of cardboard ominously warned: “Messi, we’re waiting for you.”

Security Minister Aníbal Fernández said at the time that the incident was an example of how drug traffickers “have won” in Rosario, but now “we have to reverse that.”

*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.