Ten members of the UOCRA construction workers union were arrested in 19 early-morning raids across Buenos Aires province on Thursday.
The raids are part of a wider investigation into alleged criminal conspiracy on the part of the union members, which includes 30 cases of extortion against construction company bosses.
The head of UOCRA’s Bahía Blanca branch, Humberto Monteros, was one of the men arrested. Police found him at his Monte Hermoso home, to the north of Bahía Blanca, and seized 5.25 million pesos and US$ 100 thousand in cash.
Another nine were hauled away across Bahía Blanca, Monte Hermoso and Coronel Suárez. Police seized cash, drugs and weapons, the Noticias Argentinas agency reported.
The head of Buenos Aires Province Police, Fabián Perroni, supervised the raids, which were requested by Bahía Blanca’s Attorney General Juan Pablo Fernández and prosecutor Gustavo Zorzano.
The investigation will look into alleged criminal conspiracy and extortion that have placed Monteros and José Bernardo Burgos at the head of the union’s alleged illegal activities.
The prosecution will allege that UOCRA threatened construction firms with the possibility of strikes or assembly in exchange for “sums of money or contracts with businesses they [the union bosses] were tied to or owned, with overpricing that secured them significant profit margins”.
The raids are part of a broader crackdown on criminal activity in the unions.
Buenos Aires province Governor Maria Eugenia Vidal met with construction company managers last September to discuss the difficulties of working with unions in their sector. At the time, she described the unionists as a "mafia".