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ARGENTINA | 09-08-2023 23:24

Deadly attack on schoolgirl shocks nation as primaries draw closer

Campaign events suspended after death of 11-year-old after robbery shocks nation and highlights insecurity on eve of PASO primaries.

Politicians across the spectrum have dramatically called off campaign rallies on the eve of the primary elections in the wake of the death of a young girl in Lanús following a robbery.

An 11-year-old girl died Wednesday after being robbed of her backpack and beaten on the way to school, sparking protests over rising crime and prompting politicians to suspend election campaigning.

Argentina is due to hold primary elections on Sunday, ahead of a presidential poll on October 22, with rampant inflation and growing insecurity topping voter concerns.

Witnesses speaking to local television stations said Morena Domínguez was walking to school when thieves on the back of a motorcycle – a common tactic in the country – hit her and grabbed her backpack.

Domínguez was taken to hospital where she later died. Neighbours reported that it took 40 minutes for the ambulance to arrive to assist her.

Javier Maroni, director of the Evita health centre where she was taken, said she arrived in "critical condition" with a severe head wound and while doctors managed to revive her heartbeat, she died in intensive care.

Grainy security camera footage of the robbery played across television stations all day. 

The incident took place in Lanús, south of the capital Buenos Aires, where outraged residents gathered in protest.

"Does a child have to die for there to be security?" the girl's mother, María, told the A24 news channel.

Buenos Aires Province Security Minister Sergio Berni told journalists the two "motochurros," as they are known in Argentina, had been arrested.

Leading candidates for the country's political party primaries quickly suspended their final election rallies which had been due Wednesday and Thursday.

Lanús Mayor Néstor Grindetti, a gubernatorial hopeful for the opposition in Buenos Aires Province, as well as his political boss, Patricia Bullrich immediately suspended scheduled closing campaign rallies in the district.

Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof, who is seeking re-election, also followed suit. 

President Alberto Fernández is not seeking re-election, and the ruling coalition's frontrunner is Economy Minister Sergio Massa. Both he and his rival, Juan Grabois, announced the cancellation of events scheduled for Wednesday.

The outcome of the presidential race for the right-wing opposition candidate is less clear, with Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and former security minister Patricia Bullrich both in the running.

Insecurity ranks second (38 percent) in concerns among Argentines, after inflation (55 percent), according to a recent survey by the University of San Andrés.

Argentina has one of Latin America's lowest homicide rates, with 4.2 people per 100,000 murdered in 2022. However, petty crime has increased along with poverty as the government battles to clamp down on economic instability and year-on-year inflation, which has hit 115 percent.

On Wednesday, the parallel "blue dollar" exchange – the most common used by residents to access dollars and skirt currency controls – hit 600 pesos, a depreciation of 17.5 percent over the past month.

Argentines have so little faith in their currency that many exchange it into dollars as fast as they can and store it in safes or under their mattresses.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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