Escalating violence in Argentina’s northeastern Santa Fe province has sparked a political war of words, as organized crime takes a central role in the dispute between the national government and the local socialists that govern the state.
The head of the Chamber of Deputies bloc allied to President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner accused the Santa Fe government of having “lost control of public security” after the state’s biggest city Rosario registered its 15th homicide of the year so far, reported Pagina 12.
“You can combat drug crime, you can do it efficiently, but you have to take the political decision and accept the gravity of the situation even though this implies assuming your own responsibility, which we can see socialism sometimes doesn’t want to do,” said Deputy Augustin Rossi.
Socialist Deputy Alicia Ciciliaana, speaking on behalf of vacationing Santa Fe Governor Antonio Bonfatti, dismissed the comments as “cynicism and perversion” and part of a “strategy that is looking to the elections.”
In 2012, there were 182 murders in Rosario, many of which authorities have linked to organized crime and drug trafficking, leaving the city with a murder rate aproximately three times higher than the national average.
InSight Crime Analysis
The influence of organized crime in Argentina has rocketed in recent years, fuelled by rising demand for cocaine within the country – Argentina is now the region’s second highest consumer after Brazil – and the country’s increasing popularity as a drug transit point linking producer countries with West Africa and Europe.
With some international drug trafficking organizations reportedly increasing their prescence in the country, Argentina could be on the edge of seeing a serious deterioration of security, one that it is ill prepared for despite the government’s recent efforts.
In this time, the northern province of Santa Fe has emerged as a hub for illegal activities, with hundreds of millions of dollars of drug money moving through Rosario each year, according to an investigation by La Nacion.
However, while Santa Fe has been one of the hardest hit regions, the problem is on a national scale, and it seems likely the attacks on the local government are at least partly related to the Kirchner government’s strategy for this year’s legislative elections, as the president and her allies are renowned for politicizing issues to gain an advantage over opponents.