After a week on the run, the manhunt for prisoners Víctor Schillaci and brothers Martín and Cristian Lanatta continues with very little progress. As the search intensifies, the three of them are believed to be in the city of Quilmes, in the Buenos Aires Province, and suspicion that they may have inside help from the police continues to grow in the provincial government.
According to the Buenos Aires Province Security Minister, Cristian Ritondo, “all four national forces have been deployed” in the manhunt: the Prefecture (or Coast Guard), Gendarmerie (or Border Patrol,) Airport Security and the Federal Police. Over the weekend, the police raided 40 different houses, including the house of María Lanatta, sister of the escapees, from 5 to 9 AM this morning.
So far two people are in custody in relation to the escape: businessman Alejandro Melnyk, who allegedly provided them with cash and logistical help, and Marcelo Mallo, a barrabrava (or hooligan) with ties to Kirchnerite officials and to the former Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández. Mallo, former head of Hinchadas Unidas Argentinas (Argentine Football Supporters United or HUA), is allegedly being held for the possession of weapons of war which were found during the police raids: his daughter’s house and Schilacci’s former wife’s house were also searched.
The escapees were last seen in the locality of Ranchos, where they were pulled over for a routine check and fired at the police on duty before making a quick getaway in a grey Ford Ranger (which was later found burnt).
“I can’t make sense of the attack on the police, the only logic behind it could be to say ‘here we are’. They feel immune to punishment,” said Ritondo in an interview with Radio Mitre. According to him, shooting at the police was “absolutely irrational” and “demonstrates their aggression and their level of emotional instability.”
The Buenos Aires Province Minister went on to say that “it was obvious from day one” that the escape “was impossible with the complicity of the Buenos Aires Province penitentiary system (SPB in Spanish)” and that the Quilmes Departmental Directorate of Investigation (DDI in Spanish) had not been cooperative. Given the lack of results from the massive manhunt underway, the top levels of the DDI in Quilmes have been removed because there is suspected foul play within the office. According to Ritondo, as soon as any anomalies are perceived in the investigations, “(the people responsible) will be replaced.”
Ritondo also admitted that it “may have been a mistake to let the media know we were closing in on them” last Friday and that despite “working night and day to get the criminals … (the government) couldn’t provide a timeline” for bringing them in.
The idea that the SPB is involved was also echoed by the escapees’ lawyers. According to both Humberto Prospero, the Lanatta brothers’ lawyer, and María Elizabeth Gasaro, Schilacci’s lawyer, “they did not escape, they struck some kind of deal: escaping isn’t that easy.” According to Gasaro, “they had a lot of information” that they were willing to share about drug trafficking that involved “a certain political sector,” for which they were possibly “allowed to escape by the SPB.” Even their family members were surprised since Schillaci, for example, had been authorized to be present at the birth of his daughter.
Cristian Lanatta’s former wife Ana Laura, spoke to several reporters over the weekend, saying that the fugitives should “give themselves up” so that “their children may see them.” According to Ana Laura, the children would rather see him behind bars than “to not see him at all.” Although she herself did not see him, her mother saw Cristian on two separate occasions after escaping: he allegedly stole her Renault Kangoo vehicle to run away. The escapees’ relatives are now asking for police protection.
Mariela Juncal, Martín Lanatta’s former wife, appeared on live television yesterday and made heartfelt statements along a similar vein: both spoke of “the trauma” the children were going through and urged the Lanatta brothers to keep their interests at heart.
For a full breakdown of the break out, check out this article by The Bubble. In the meantime, social media continues to make fun of the investigation, this time comparing the search for the fugitives to the “Where’s Waldo?” books.
— Eameo (@EameoOk) January 3, 2016