December 22, 2010
Buenos Aires – Three border guards standing watch over a state-owned property on the outskirts of the Argentine capital were hospitalized after being shot by suspected squatters, authorities said.
The incident occurred at a 45-hectare (110-acre) property in the Buenos Aires suburb of Lanus, the Security Ministry said in a statement, adding that the three guards were hospitalized with gunshot wounds but are now “out of danger.”
Meanwhile, the president of Argentinos Juniors, Luis Segura, said a group of local residents had occupied land the soccer club owns in southern Buenos Aires with the purpose of building makeshift homes.
“We have the club surrounded,” Segura said, referring to land Argentinos Juniors owns in the Villa Soldati neighborhood near Indo-American Park, the scene of clashes earlier this month between land grabbers and police and local residents that left two Bolivian immigrants and a Paraguayan man dead.
The takeover of the park by some 13,000 slum dwellers demanding better quality housing, most of them foreigners, was part of a larger wave of squatter occupations of public and private land in Greater Buenos Aires.
Almost all of the occupied properties – including Indo-American Park – were peacefully vacated after federal and city authorities pledged to provide low-cost housing loans, although tensions were still high at a sports field occupied nine days ago by hundreds of homeless families.
A judge on Tuesday night ordered the arrest of two men suspected of organizing the illegal takeover of that property, known as the Alvariño club, sources close to the investigation said.
The day before, Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri had called on President Cristina Fernandez to order the evacuation of the premises after violent confrontations broke out between squatters and local residents angered by their presence.
Security Minister Nilda Garre, however, said the federal government was working on a plan to peacefully vacate the property and added that it will not use force to repress the squatters.
In addition to creating the ministry headed by Garre, President Fernandez on Monday implemented a security plan for the Buenos Aires metropolitan area that includes assigning 6,000 border guards to crime-fighting duties.
Macri has blamed the squatter problem on Fernandez’s government, saying the conflicts were the result of “uncontrolled emigration” to Argentina and the actions of “drug traffickers and criminals.”
Fernandez responded by accusing Macri of “xenophobic” remarks and asking the forgiveness of the country’s “Paraguayan and Bolivian brothers and sisters.”