11 Dec 2013

Violent mobs and looting mar Argentine democracy celebration

Celebrations of thirty years of uninterrupted democracy in Argentina are marred by violence as police strike action is followed by looting and public protests.

At least seven people were killed as outbreaks of looting and violence spread across the country when police abandoned their posts in spreading strikes organised to pressure provincial governors into raising pay.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, speaking at an event in capital Buenos Aires, has condemned the violence.

“I’m not naive. I don’t believe in coincidences. Nor do I believe that acts are contagious as chatter seems to indicate,” the president state.

“Mumps, chickenpox or rubella are contagious. But some things that happen in Argentina, and some things that happen on certain dates and with certain players are not contagious. They are planned and executed with surgical precision.”

End of dictatorship

Tuesday marked three decades since President Raul Alfonsin’s inauguration ended three decades of military dictatorship.

All political parties were invited to assemble on a stage in front of the presidential palace for a night of speeches and musical celebrations.

There were calls for the party to be called off by the late president’s son, legislator Ricardo Alfonsin, and Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri.

The violence first broke out last week in Cordoba, north of the capital Buenos Aires, as officers went on strike asking for pay rises in line with the country’s 25 per cent inflation.

Local authorities are reported to have met the demands of police, doubling salaries to 12,000 pesos per month (£1,166).

On Tuesday night protesters took to the streets of the northern province of Tucuman demanding authorities put a stop to looting.

The region has seen chaos in the streets as mobs smashed storefronts and fought over the merchandise inside.

Police used gas grenades, rubber bullets and batons to try disperse the protesters at the house of Tucuman governor Jose Alperovich.

The protests followed claims that deals had been struck with police in Tucuman and Santa Fe, two of the last provinces where officers were holding out for higher pay.

Argentina’s military, the National Gendarmerie, arrived at the scene and defended the protesters from local police, according to reports.