Two cars were set on fire last night outside the Buenos Aires Province Security Ministry in the city of La Plata, prompting an investigation by the authorities over what some suspect could have been an attempt to intimidate María Eugenia Vidal’s administration.
Sources close to the governor assured today they suspect this is not the work of a random arsonists and, while several theories are being considered, they insist that whoever is behind the fire intended to intimidate them and deter them from moving forward with what the Vidal administration has called a “fight against the mobs” in the Buenos Aires province. Another speculation of theirs involves groups protesting the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado, angry at how the national government has handled the case so far.
Despite all the theories, the main investigation focuses on this being a message from groups within the provincial police, considering that governor Vidal has been leading a purge in this institution considered to be the most corrupt in the country. Since taking office, her administration has removed more than 5,500 officials from the force, including its former head, Pablo Bressi, in May this year.
Throughout this period, there were several episodes similar to yesterday’s incident that also remain unanswered but have been considered to be threats as well, mainly because they had the same modus operandi: they seemed to be targeting high-ranking officials or institutions but only cause property damage.
Since Vidal took office, her administration has had to face a long list of threats such as:
- The 911 number receiving numerous phone calls with death threats to governor Vidal. After repeated episodes like these, the governor decided to move with her family to a military base, where she and her children have been living since February 2016. Last August, police also found shotgun shells outside her old house.
- Unidentified people broke into the home of Vidal’s Chief of Staff Federico Salvai in La Plata but didn’t take anything. Salvai wasn’t home at the the time.
- In July last year, shots were fired at facade of the provincial Ministry of Health, then led by Zulma Ortíz.
- A fire broke out in October in a courthouse of the Cassation Court of San Martín, and many speculated it was yet another threat because a note was found on the roof with letters cut out from a newspaper reading, “Vidal, leave San Martín” with the word “drug” at the bottom and a picture of a gun.
This has prompted the Vidal administration to suggest that last night’s episode was yet another threat. In a press conference held today, provincial Security Ministry Cristian Ritondo said that these kind of events “won’t make them back down.”
“It’s not by chance that the governor has to live in a military base,” said Ritondo. “We will investigate this until we determine who is responsible for each and every one of these attacks.”
The only possible theory being considered by administration that doesn’t involve groups within the police is the one analyzing whether the fires could have been started by a group of people who yesterday marched in La Plata to demand safe return of Santiago Maldonado, last seen in the province of Chubut on August 1 and is currently missing.
The march ended abruptly after a man threw a Molotov cocktail onto building adjacent to the provincial Senate. Things didn’t escalate, as firemen quickly reached the scene and put out the fire.
Today, employees were removing graffiti written on the building’s wall that read words such as “anarchy,” and “death to the state.” Previously, this group had also thrown rocks at Federico Salvai’s offices.