By Augusto Morel
Rosario, Argentina, Sep 29 (EFE).- Rosario, the home city of iconic Argentine figures like rock star Fito Paez and soccer legend Lionel Messi, is now becoming known for all the wrong reasons – drug dealing, widespread crime and daily shootouts and homicides.
“The violence hasn’t stopped for a few months. There’s a lot of violence; it’s scary what’s happening in Rosario,” Ana Maria, whose son, Sebastian Cejas, was killed near the entrance to a hospital while resisting car thieves.
“It was a terrible day. My husband had to do dialysis. My son and I went to pick him up, and at the door of the hospital four people appeared,” the woman recalled. “They dragged me out of the vehicle and the other three held my son on the driver’s side. I couldn’t see anything and only managed to scream his name.”
Ana Maria said she was in a state of shock during the robbery and only reacted after the criminals fled with the car.
“The car sped away and I saw my son lying on the ground. I went running and shouting to the door of the hospital asking for help. My son was lying on the floor face down, with one arm stretched out and motionless. They rushed him to intensive care and tried to revive him” but it wasn’t possible, she said with a broken voice.
Cejas, who worked as a cook and also accompanied his father to his medical treatments, decided to confront the car thieves when he saw them pull his mother out of the vehicle.
But he was shot at point-blank range in the chest and became the latest victim in a city that has registered 217 homicides since the start of the year.
Rosario’s rate of 14.43 murders per 100,000 inhabitants far exceeds that of Buenos Aires (around 3.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants).
Nine of every 10 homicide victims this year in Rosario were killed by firearms and 70.8 percent of the attacks were organized crime-related, according to the latest monthly report from the Public Safety Observatory (OSP) in the northeastern province of Santa Fe, whose largest city is Rosario.
Crime started getting bad in 2012 when truces between different (drug) gangs were broken, and the violence has increased over the past five years,” the president of an association of crime victims and their families in Rosario, Ezequiel Lowden, told Efe.
Lowden, who nearly died when an armed assailant pierced his femoral artery while stealing his car, said a lack of decisive action by local officials is contributing to the problem.
“The times we’ve met with the different actors we’ve seen a lack of agreement needed for minimal legislation, like cracking down on those who carry guns on the street or implementing stronger controls,” the president of the non-governmental organization Familiares y Victimas de Inseguridad said.
The OSP’s figures also indicate that more than half of the intentional violent deaths (77.9 percent) had been planned, meaning that murderers-for-hire are in high demand in the city. EFE