BUENOS AIRES — An 11-year-old Argentine girl died yesterday after being robbed of her backpack and beaten on the way to school, sparking protests over rising crime and prompting politicians to suspend election campaigning.
The country holds primary elections on Sunday, ahead of a presidential poll on October 22, with rampant inflation and growing insecurity topping voter concerns.
Witnesses speaking to local television stations said Morena Dominguez was walking to school when thieves on the back of a motorcycle — a common tactic in the country — hit her and grabbed her backpack.
Dominguez was taken to hospital where she later died.
Javier Maroni, director of the Evita health centre where she was taken, said she arrived in “critical condition” with a severe head wound and while doctors managed to revive her heartbeat, she died in intensive care.
Grainy security camera footage of the robbery played across television stations all day.
The incident took place in Lanus, south of the capital Buenos Aires, where outraged residents gathered in protest.
“Does a child have to die for there to be security?” the girl’s mother, Maria, told the A24 news channel.
Regional security minister Sergio Berni told journalists the two “moto-thugs,” as they are known in Argentina, had been arrested.
Leading candidates for the country’s political party primaries suspended their final election rallies which had been due Wednesday and Thursday.
President Alberto Fernandez is not seeking re-election, and the ruling party frontrunner is Economy Minister Sergio Massa.
The outcome of the race for the right-wing opposition candidate is less clear, with Buenos Aires mayor Horacio Larreta and former security minister Patricia Bullrich both in the running.
Argentina has one of Latin America’s lowest homicide rates, with 4.2 people per 100,000 murdered in 2022.
However, petty crime has increased along with poverty as the government battles to clamp down on economic instability and year-on-year inflation, which has hit 115 per cent.
On Wednesday, the parallel “blue dollar” exchange — the most common used by residents to access dollars and skirt currency controls — hit 600 pesos, a depreciation of 17.5 per cent over the past month.
Argentines have so little faith in their currency that many exchange it into dollars as fast as they can and store it in safes or under their mattresses. — AFP