Police in Argentina sealed off the Villa Soldati area of Buenos Aires Dec. 14 following a week of violence between squatters, authorities and local residents in which at least three have been killed. Some 1,000 people, mostly of Bolivian and Paraguayan origin, had pitched tents in the local Indoamericano Park after being evicted from a shantytown. A Paraguayan and a Bolivian were killed Dec. 7 when city police, executing a court order secured by the Buenos Aires municipal government, attempted to remove the squatters. Two days later, clashes between residents and the okupas, as the squatters are known, resulted in the death of another Bolivian. Four men are still in the hospital. Prosecutors in Buenos Aires are investigating the clashes.
A municipal court on Dec. 10 declared a state of emergency and ordered the national government to restore order by “setting up a perimeter fence” around the park. Cabinet chief Anibal Fernández said the national government plans to appeal the ruling, charging that Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, a right-wing opponent of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had incited the conflict with “xenophobic and discriminatory” rhetoric. Macri blamed the conflict on “uncontrolled emigration” to Argentina.
President Fernández did finally send in the Gendarmería Nacional on Dec. 14—officially to prevent further clashes between the okupas and local residents, not to evict. The okupas abandoned Indoamericano Park the following day, on a pledge from the national government to provide housing for them elsewhere in the city.
In his controversial comments during the crisis, Mayor Macri told reporters: “It would seem that the city of Buenos Aires is having to support neighboring countries and that’s impossible. Between 100 and 200 new people come to the city every day in connection with [a rise in] drug trafficking and crime, and we don’t know who they are.”
Macri also charged that the squatters “are led by Kirchnerite” supporters. Tensions over the shantytowns have been growing for weeks. A local football fan group, the Barrabravas de Boca, have mobilized to prevent okupas from taking lands in the southern part of Buenos Aires. Other politicians have also been weighing in on the crisis. Former President Eduardo Duhalde, announcing his own new run for the presidency next year, warned that Argentina is falling into a “semi-anarchic” state.
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales also accused Macri of xenophobia, and called upon Argentines not to “maltreat dignified people who work honestly.” He also offered land in Bolivia to any Bolivian nationals who want to repatriate from Argentina. (Buenos Aires Herald, La Nación, Buenos Aires, Dec. 16; Terra.com, ABC International, Spain, CNN, Dec. 14; Clarín, Buenos Aires, BBC News, LAHT, Dec. 12; LAHT, Dec. 11)
See our last post on Argentina.