A chilling video has emerged of an armed gang of men challenging the police force to “come and get them” and accusing them of charging a AR$200,000 bribe to clear the area in order to greenlight a high-profile bank robbery on September 19.
The video is getting incessant airtime in local media for a simple reason: it explicitly illustrates the alarming cooperation that often exists between the Buenos Aires provincial police force and organized crime. And it comes at a time when the provincial government has launched a high-profile drive to rid the Buenos Aires police force of corruption.
“You said you cleared the area and told me they wouldn’t shoot. But there you have it: we fired shots but so did they. Because I didn’t pay you AR$200,000 […] now you want to threaten my family and others that had nothing to do with it?” says the main speaker in the video, who identifies himself as “Matías Maximiliano” but has his face covered like everyone else.
In the video, the alleged criminals complain of a purported betrayal by the Buenos Aires police force last week, naming several police officials by name. He claims those who appear in the video were part of the gang that stole AR$1 million from the owner of a poultry company outside a bank in General Rodríguez.
The police was supposed to have cleared the area to allow the robbers to carry out their deeds. Shots were fired during the robbery, which is what the masked man alluded to in the video. That “betrayal” meant the robbers didn’t pay a previously agreed-to AR$200,000 bribe and now the police are threatening their families. In the video, one of the men shows the wads of cash that had been destined for the bribe (referred to as “astilla” in the video).
“Come and get us, we’ll fill your bodies with bullets,” says “Maximiliano.”
The threats and accusations are mainly directed at Matías Lattaro, a secretary in the the General Rodríguez prosecutor’s office and Rubén Giménez, who he refers to as “the head of the brigade.” And there was also a message to politicians (he tells President Mauricio Macri to “do something”) and to the media (“stop calling us rapists, we’re [only] delinquents”).
The video came to light only a few days after the TV show Periodismo Para Todos (PPT) covered the issue of “liberated areas” on Sunday. The journalism program hosted by Jorge Lanata reported how liberating areas to carry out robberies involves a highly coordinated system in which the loot from the criminal actions is split between robbers and police.
Greater Buenos Aires is one of the areas where this type of practice is most pervasive, according to the report.
“You [the police force] are worse delinquents than us. Everything you see here, you gave us,” continues “Maximiliano,” pointing at the weapons, masks, police vests, etc. that appear in the recording.
Considering the video was released at a time when Governor María Eugenia Vidal has already launched a public overhaul of the force, specifically targeting police corruption on the streets and within the penitentiary system, this video is unlikely to go unnoticed.
Vidal has since received several death threats — which are suspected to have originated within the police force — and there is even a supposed plot by former police officers to kill her.
There are, however, some who have raised doubts about the veracity of the video: the security force that got involved during last week’s robbery was not in fact the Buenos Aires provincial police, which casts doubt about the veracity of the demands in the video. In addition, despite claims that “you didn’t arrest us, we’re all right here,” several women were arrested at the scene in connection to the robbery. There are also other details that raised eyebrows, including the police vests that don’t look quite authentic.
Despite these doubts, could the video become the starting point to get the federal government to take control of the provincial police force? For now, the only thing that seems certain is crime is growing in Greater Buenos Aires. And the provincial police is playing a starring role.