Ariel Máximo ’Guille’ Cantero, the head of the notorious Rosario drug gang known as ‘Los Monos,’ was handed a new 22-year jail term on Thursday for instigating at least seven shooting attacks on judges and judicial institutions in the troubled Santa Fe Province city.
It was the seventh time Cantero has stood trial in Argentina for crimes related to the illegal activities of Los Monos, the gang which has been at the forefront of recent violence in Rosario. Five of those processes have taken place while the offender has been jailed, underlining his continued influence on the gang.
Unifying this latest punishment with a previous sentence of six years and eight months from a previous trial related to threatening judicial officials, Judges Hebe Marcogliese, Rafael Coria and Pablo Pinto ruled that Cantero should serve 28 years and eight months behind bars.
He is unlikely to be released from prison, given that other previous convictions have already left him facing 83 years and eight months behind bars.
The gang leader was accused of instigating seven of 14 attacks carried out by Los Monos against the homes of prosecutors, judges and judicial buildings. He was also convicted of participating in “coercive threats,” aggravated by them being made anonymously, for the “use of a firearm” and for carrying out illegal acts with “the aim of impeding the free exercise of authority.”
Two other individuals, Lucía Uberti (Cantero’s former girlfriend) and Matías César, received sentences of 20 years in prison for the same crimes. Four others – Daniel ‘Teletubi’ Delgado (33 years and six months, thanks to unification of sentences related to three homicides), Leandro Daniel Olivera (11 years), Leonel Alejandro Fernández (8 years) and Damián Oscar Chávez (7 years) – also received jail terms.
Four others plead guilty before the court and were sentenced in abbreviated procedures last month.
Disturbing details from the trial, which featured around 100 witnesses, have made headlines in Argentina in recent weeks, while Cantero has appeared unrepentant in court. In the seven attacks for which he was convicted as the organiser, prosecutors revealed that the drug gang had hired hitmen to kill individuals for as little as 4,000 pesos.
When quizzed in court as to what he did for employment, the gang leader – who is being held at Marcos Paz prison in Buenos Aires Province, where prison guards recently discovered a landline phone connection in his cell – responded by saying he “hires hitmen to shoot at judges.”
The trial has taken place amid tight security, following a surge in drug violence in Rosario over the past few weeks. On the last day of proceedings, as many as 250 police officers were deployed onto the streets to ensure events passed off smoothly.
"We aspire for this to be a turning point, a milestone from which a definitive brake will be put on the organisations that put democratic institutions in danger," said Judge Marcogliese during sentencing.
Those overseeing the court called on the state to do more to confront crime in Rosario and improve live for its residents.
"We hope that answers will not be reduced to the penal system, punishment and confinement, but also from social inclusion and equal opportunities. This is the only way to reduce the structural and cultural violence that punishes us all equally, and that seems to have no end," they wrote in a ruling.