Argentina Looting Turns Deadly As Police Strike for Higher Pay

Image: Argentina Looting Turns Deadly As Police Strike for Higher Pay

Tuesday, 10 Dec 2013 05:16 PM

By David Ogul

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Looters are taking advantage of a nationwide police strike in Argentina, where a week of disturbances have left at least seven people dead, hundreds of others injured, and countless stores ransacked.

“The violence has spread to 19 out of 23 provinces, and local news describes shocking scenes: A shop owner was killed when looters set his store on fire,” reported NPR. “Banks, supermarkets, retail businesses, and public transportation have shut down in many cities.”

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Among the dead was a police officer in the northern province of Chaco and a looter who was electrocuted while stealing from an appliance shop in a rainstorm, The Associated Press reported. One looter died after falling from a motorcycle while hauling away a television, and another died during a fistfight inside a damaged store.

Public transportation in some cities has been shut down and hospitals around the country are reportedly turning away all but emergency patients for fear of being targeted by looters.

Police across Argentina have been demanding higher pay, amnesty for wrongdoing, and the right to return to work after officers have retired. The government has agreed to many of the demands, but that reportedly will force many provinces to delay debt payments to finance the deal. Argentina already is dealing with an inflation rate of 25 percent.

The Buenos Aires Herald said the deals reached by regional governors have emboldened other public workers. “Rio Negro Governor Alberto Weretilneck settled his province’s 21-hour police strike by raising base salaries to 8,500 pesos (about $1,360) only to see health and sanitation workers walk off the job yesterday demanding their own raises.”

The Herald reported looting began in the province of Cordoba last week, prompting the governor there to reach a deal that doubled police salaries to 12,000 pesos a month. But that deal may have encouraged other police forces around the country to take similar action.

The Associated Press said President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s cabinet chief, Jorge Capitanich, accused groups of planning the chaos on the eve of the 30th anniversary of Argentina’s return to democracy.

“In some ways, this amounts to the crime of treason,” Capitanich was quoted as telling reporters.

Tuesday marked the inauguration of President Raul Alfonsin and the end of a nearly decade-long dictatorship that included what is commonly referred to as the “Dirty War” of state terrorism targeting political dissidents, journalists, trade unionists, and students.

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