Crime and insecurity rose to the fore during campaigning for the PASO primaries on Wednesday after the death of an 11-year-old in Lanús from injuries sustained in a robbery as she was on her way to school.
The girl, who local media identified as Morena Rodríguez, died after being attacked by two assailants who sought to steal her bag, mobile phone and other belongings.
The incident took place at around 7.30am on Molinedo Street as the youngster was on her way to the Escuela Alma Fuerta No. 60 in Villa Giardino, Lanús, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, police sources confirmed.
Images from nearby security cameras captured when the thieves approached Rodríguez on motorbike, accosted her and took her mobile phone. Struck by the attackers during the attack, the girl suffered a severe blow to the head as she fell to the pavement.
Police sources said Wednesday that a 14-year-old boy had been arrested and had already confessed to the murder, they added. A search for the second suspect is ongoing.
Neighbours who saw the incident called 911 and tried to assist the victim, who suffered convulsions and had to be resuscitated by local medical personnel and paramedics.
A street-sweeper, parents taking their children to school and a driver passing by all stopped to intervene.
"I was at the door of the school, we heard the screams and the girl was lying on the floor, but she was conscious. They snatched her mobile phone and the street sweeper, who was the one who rescued her and called for help, saw that she had been punched twice in the stomach and was dragged a few metres," a local resident told the Noticias Argentinas news agency.
Rodriguez was subsequently taken to the Hospital Evita, where she died roughly an hour after her arrival.
The hospital’s director Dr. Javier Maroni later confirmed that the teenager killed arrived with "severe head trauma."
"She was referred through the emergency system and CPR was performed," he said. "She had many wounds all over her body and, in the first instance, we believed that it was a serious craniocerebral injury," explained the director.
The doctor stressed that the victim "arrived unconscious” with a faint heartbeat. "She was admitted in serious condition and an hour after entering therapy she went into cardiorespiratory arrest and we were unable to save her," he continued.
"As a father, I am deeply saddened and hurt that a girl from Lanús who had her whole life ahead of her has become another fatal victim of crime in our province. Another family destroyed and a whole neighbourhood shocked," said Diego Kravetz, chief-of-staff and head of security for the municipality of Lanús, in a statement.
"At the moment, we and the police are monitoring the security cameras in the neighbourhood and the surrounding area to find the whereabouts of the criminals," he added.
Residents took to the streets on Wednesday afternoon to demand the arrest of the aggressors, a greater security presence in the area and seek justice for the slain girl.
Some locals also criticised the emergency services, claiming that an ambulance had taken more than 40 minutes to arrive.
Néstor Grindetti, the Lanús mayor who has taken leave to run as a candidate to be governor of Buenos Aires Province for Juntos por el Cambio, announced that he would suspend campaigning in the wake of the news.
"Another unfortunate act of insecurity that shocks us and saddens us terribly. My support for Morena's family. The entire security team of the Municipality of Lanús is working to find those responsible,” he added.
Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof and opposition presidential hopeful Patricia Bullrich announced that they were also suspending campaigning following the news.
Crime and insecurity is one of the top concerns for voters in the lead-up to Sunday's PASO primaries.
A recent poll by the University of San Andrés, with 38 percent of voters placing it as the country's main problem, surpassed only by inflation (55 percent).