Gunmen open fire on a supermarket owned by Messi’s relatives in Rosario, Argentina, which has been plagued by violence

Argentina’s president said on Tuesday he would send hundreds more federal security forces to the central city of Rosario, where drug violence has drawn international attention due to a recent threat against soccer star Lionel Messi.

The death of an 11-year-old boy over the weekend has added alarm and anger in Argentina over the escalation of violence in the city, after the written threat left last Thursday when the attackers opened fire on a supermarket owned by Messi’s in-laws .

It was unclear why Messi and his relatives were being targeted, but officials publicly speculated at the time that it was an attempt by drug traffickers to intimidate the entire community.

On Sunday, the 11-year-old was killed and three other children, including a 2-year-old, were injured in a shooting that officials said was linked to turf wars between rival gangs.

President Alberto Fernández announced on Tuesday that the federal government would increase the number of federal security forces in the port city to 1,400. Fernandez did not specify how many forces this would involve, but according to the provincial estimate it would double the number currently in the city.


Army engineers will also be sent to help build infrastructure for slums, Fernandez said.

“I understand that Rosario needs us,” Fernández said in a recorded video message about the city which is about 190 miles north of the capital. “I know their security forces are insufficient.”

In addition, the president said the government would install 600 new surveillance cameras with facial recognition software in Rosario and open a new branch of its anti-money laundering agency to tackle drug-related funding.

“We will put state authority center stage to bring community life back to the city,” Fernández said. “We will not hesitate to fight organized crime.”

Rosaria mayor Pablo Javkin, a politician opposed to the ruling Peronist coalition, previously accused the federal government of not doing enough to respond to the city’s violence, which has reached a historically rare level in Argentina.

Police in riot gear stand by after the burial of Máximo Jerez, an 11-year-old boy killed in the crossfire of a shooting in the Los Pumitas neighborhood of Rosario, Argentina on March 6, 2023.

Police in riot gear stand by after the burial of Máximo Jerez, an 11-year-old boy killed in the crossfire of a shooting in the Los Pumitas neighborhood of Rosario, Argentina on March 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Adrián Spelta, the prosecutor charged with investigating the weekend shooting, said the violence showed that “some lines that existed have been crossed,” noting that the presence of minors would have curbed drug-related shootings in the past.

On Monday, Argentines watched as news channels covered live as neighbors and relatives of the slain 11-year-old attacked the alleged suspect in his home. The police arrested him and protected him from the mob violence, but residents destroyed his home and looted his belongings.

People destroyed at least 3 houses in the area that they claimed were used by drug dealers.

On Thursday, no one was injured in the morning supermarket attack linked to relatives of Messi, a Rosario native and captain of the national soccer team that just won the World Cup late last year.

But the written message left on a piece of cardboard ominously warned: “Messi, we are waiting for you”.


Security Minister Aníbal Fernández said at the time the incident was an example of how drug traffickers “won” in Rosario, but now “we have to turn the tide”.


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