Argentina Captures Fugitives in Politically-Charged Murder Case

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Argentina authorities have captured three recently escaped fugitives serving time for the politically-charged “Triple Crime” murder case. 

Martín Lanatta was arrested January 9 near the town of Cayastá in central eastern Santa Fe province, after being injured in a car crash, the BBC reported. Two other fugitives on the run — Lanatta’s brother, Cristian, and Víctor Schillaci — were detained later that same day, also in Santa Fe. 

The three men escaped from General Alvear prison on December 27. The men were serving time for the murder of three pharmaceutical businessmen that became known in Argentina as the “Triple Crime.” 

InSight Crime Analysis

The arrest of the three fugitives may yet damage both of Argentina’s major political camps. 

The Triple Crime occurred in 2008, during the administration of former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. 

In an interview prior to his escape, Cristian Lanatta claimed the former Chief of the Cabinet, Aníbal Domingo Fernández, had ordered the murders in a bid to consolidate control over ephedrine trafficking in Argentina. This was not the first time Fernández was accused of being involved in the Triple Crime or trafficking ephedrine, a precursor chemical for manufacturing methamphetamine and other designer drugs. 

With the case once again in the media, Argentina’s newly-elected President Mauricio Macri may choose to highlight Fernández’s long-time connection to Kirchner and her political movement, known locally as Kirchnerismo.

This narrative of corruption under Kirchnerismo could be particularly useful as Macri moves to consolidate Buenos Aires’ federal and local police forces into one department and continues an aggressive government audit, which has resulted in the slashing of thousands of state jobs

On the other hand, although the case began under Fernández de Kirchner’s watch, any further developments have the potential to reflect badly on Macri. The Macri administration had previously incorrectly reported that all three fugitives had been captured. Opponents were quick to paint his administration as inept and local newspaper Pagina/12 attributed the mistake to a lack of coordination between police forces. 

Authorities have arrested the head of General Alvear prison and several of the fugitives’ family members, and are reportedly looking at a group of Buenos Aires police under suspicion of helping the fugitives escape. 

This story has been updated since it was first published. 

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