A Swedish tourist suffered the amputation of his right leg on Thursday, after being shot in downtown Buenos Aires last weekend in the course of a robbery.
Christoffer Persson, 36, was standing at the corner of Tacuarí and Venezuela streets in Monserrat (only a couple of blocks away from Casa Sueca housing the Swedish Club, various Swedish companies and, until very recently, the Swedish Embassy, now in Puerto Madero) when he pulled out his smartphone to consult Google Maps and find his bearings.
According to his girlfriend, Sicilian-born journalist Maria Izzo, the phone drew the attention of a criminal cruising past in a car. The attacker sprang out and ordered Perssson, a computer systems engineer, to hand over his mobile phone at gunpoint but the tourist resisted, whereupon he was promptly kneecapped by the assailant, who later escaped in the car.
The attacker remained at large at press time despite having his licence plate recorded by a security camera.
Izzo described the mugger as in his early 20s, apparently under the influence of drugs and also inexperienced with firearms, believing the bullet costing Persson his leg to be the result of a random shot rather than a deliberate maiming.
She praised the initiative of two passing cyclists who improvised a tourniquet from the victim’s clothing to stop the bleeding immediately. Neighbouring residents also responded to help.
The incident received practically no media attention until Thursday’s amputation, but then it became the highestprofile attack on a foreign visitor since last February when tourist Francis Joseph Wolek from the United States was stabbed in La Boca.
That criminal was promptly gunned down in unclear circumstances by off-duty Buenos Aires provincial policeman Luis Chocobar, who was soon afterwards hosted by a congratulatory President Mauricio Macri in the Casa Rosada amid controversy over whether Chocobar was a police hero or a ‘trigger-happy’ cop.
Ironically enough, Wolek was attended in the same hospital (Argerich) by the same doctor who ended up removing Persson’s leg this week – Yamil Ponce. Between the weekend and Thursday, the wounded man underwent four knee operations in an attempt to save the limb, doctors said, including a six-hour bypass with another of his veins, but the damage to vital arteries was too severe and his life was in danger.
Sedated and under observation for the following 24 hours to avoid any risk of infection after the amputation, Persson will remain in hospital for at least 10 days. His parents arrived yesterday from Sweden.
Born on Christmas Eve, 1971, in southern Sweden, Persson had planned to celebrate both his birthday and Christmas here around the country, with scheduled trips to locations including Bariloche and Colonia (Uruguay).