Argentina: Shootings and Bomb Threats Rock Buenos Aires in Turbulent Week
Amidst a major financial crisis, Argentina has endured a week of political violence, involving shootings and bomb threats at both the Casa Rosada and the Congress.
Argentine has been rocked this week by political violence. Federal Congressman Héctor Olivares was shot last Thursday, May 9, in the vicinity of the Congress building, and several theories are under consideration as to why. Today more violence struck Buenos Aires, and authorities are still trying to piece together the bizarre events that unfolded at the nation’s presidential palace, the famed Casa Rosada.
A man, named Ariel Muñíz, arrived at the Casa Rosada, saying that he was there for a meeting with President Mauricio Macri. The security officers were not aware that the president had the meeting scheduled, so they checked the day’s schedule, according to protocol. When the troops verified that the name of the individual was not on the list, they informed him that he would not be allowed to enter the grounds.
Muñíz, 35 years old, at that moment became nervous and left behind a briefcase, and then ran away without a word. The police seized the briefcase near the entrance of the presidential palace, and special forces opened it. It contained a Magnum pistol with the serial number filed off. According to the official report, the gun was not loaded with ammunition.
When the name of the individual in question appeared in the media, it was confirmed that he was a supporter of the Republican Proposal party, led by the same president. According to sources, Muñíz was an aspiring politician in General Pico, in La Pampa province, west of Buenos Aires, but was excluded from a list of Congressional candidates in the last elections.
But the bizarre arrest of Ariel Muñíz was merely the beginning. Just a few hours later, the Casa Rosada again made frontpage news when an as of yet unidentified individual phoned in a threat of a car bomb on the presidential grounds. Minutes later further bomb threats were made at the National Congress.
The nation is already on edge after Federal Congressman Hector Olivares, of the Radical Civic Union, was shot dead earlier this week. Media reports have suggested the shooting was personal, rather than political, in nature, but those reports have not yet been confirmed.
Argentina is enduring a difficult financial situation as the Argentine peso has plummeted in value with the dollar and other major currencies, while hyperinflation remains a serious threat.
Center-right President Mauricio Macri has been unable to take the major structural reforms necessary to right the ship, and is now facing a spirited challenge from leftist former President Cristina Kirchner for the country’s top job, with elections in October of this year.
Macri faces a tenuous coalition in Congress, where he must negotiate with other parties for support, and has seen his favorability ratings evaporate as Argentines suffer under increasing economic strain.
Fundamentally, the Argentine government spends too much money, then prints more money to cover its costs, greatly contributing to hyperinflation.
Once cheered by investors and the business community, many have soured on Macri, who has feebly tried to undertake a series of ineffective “half measures.”
Kirchner’s return to the Casa Rosada would be significant triumph, but it is complicated by the fact that she and her closest associates are facing a number of prominent criminal investigations.