According to the Associated Press, police said two men on motorbikes fired at least a dozen shots into the store’s metal shutters and front door, leaving a message on a piece of cardboard that read, “Messi , we are waiting for you. (Mayor Pablo) Javkin is a drug dealer, so he won’t deal with you. Local reports, via the Mirror, speculated that barra bravas, Argentinian football fans, may have been behind the attack, and a local TV channel suggested the gunmen were possibly trying to be to extort money from the star player.
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One of Roccuzzo’s cousins is said to run the store, one of a chain the Roccuzzo family has run in Rosario since the 1980s. Because Messi is a national hero and his in-laws still sometimes work in the store, it’s a popular place.
“Nothing like this had ever happened before. I was watching TV when I heard (the gunshots around 3 a.m.). We all heard them. All the neighbors on the block came out to see what happened,” a man identified only by Oscar told El Pais, saying he lived next door to the store.
The attack was quickly picked up by local and international media, and it quickly turned into a political debate. Rosario has become one of the most dangerous places in Argentina, with more than 280 murders in 2022, according to Argentina’s former security secretary Eugenio Burzaco.
“The situation of such marked deterioration that is devastating one of the main cities of the country is due to the advance of the drug mafias that today control the territory,” he said in a recent podcast shared by the Infobae news site.
At least 39 homicides were committed there in the first month of this year.
Security Minister Aníbal Fernández told local press that the government was working with more than 3,500 security forces in Rosario to try to “turn around” the situation of insecurity there. “For 20 years this has been the situation,” he said.
President Alberto Fernández said he woke up to the news of the attack and called Javkin as soon as he heard it. “We are doing a lot, but clearly we need to do more,” Fernández said during a visit to Salta. “The problem of violence and organized crime is very serious.”
Former President Mauricio Macri wrote on Twitter that the attack is “another warning to the national government and to the Santa Fe government that you can’t live with the drug dealer.”
Javkin criticized federal authorities for what he called a failure to end drug-related violence in the city.
“It is so (a) vicious (attack) that I question everything. Even this (it was done by) criminal gangs,” Javkin said, according to El Pais. “It is very clear that it is easy to harm Rosario and that there is no concrete help. How far is the president from here, half an hour? I am the mayor of the city. I don’t manage the security forces, and when I (have) asked (to do so), they won’t let me.
Messi, who led Argentina to their first world championship in 36 years in December, has not commented on the incident and is in France, playing for Paris Saint-Germain. He often visits Rosario and has a house in the suburb of Funes. He is expected to travel to the country at the end of March for the national team’s friendlies against Panama and Curacao.