Argentina Raids Leftist Protest Groups Amid Extortion Complaints

Officials from Argentina’s federal judicial system raided 27 homes belonging to members of left-wing piqueteros (“picketers”) groups after receiving reports of extortion and blackmail from concerned residents.

Leftist protests against President Javier Milei were allegedly instigated by the groups using coercion and threats. Although some picketing groups have recently formed their parties, others have grown out of local far-left organizations. In previous regimes that leaned to the left, protester groups assumed leadership roles in the government.

Federal Judge Sebastián Casanello of Argentina and Prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita are now heading an inquiry.

The Argentine government established a telephone hotline for residents to report personal threats made by picketer leaders in December, upon Milei’s assumption of power. More than 13,000 calls have been received since then, with 924 of them resulting in official inquiries. Prosecutors in Argentina have collected the messages that the picketers’ leaders allegedly sent to blackmail and compel ordinary residents, and local media have made copies of these texts available.

Several Argentineans who get government assistance have spoken out about how picketer organizers threatened to take away their benefits unless they joined the demonstrations against Milei and how they were forced to give up some of their stipend money as a result. The accusations also detailed incidents in which picketers harassed and punished those who chose not to participate in a demonstration. Also, some people were unhappy that they had to pay to join picketer organizations to get the free food boxes the government gave out.

Organizations in Struggle Front, the Standing Barrios, and the Workers’ Pole are the picketer organizations whose leaders have been the targets of 27 raids and continuing investigations. The investigation’s audio records identify Kirchnerism-affiliated picketer movement leaders by name. Reportedly, the raids’ targets included many people with ties to the low-income residents’ recently-ended Enhance Work social assistance program.

Along with mobile phones, spreadsheets, lists, and a substantial quantity of money (in pesos and an undetermined amount in US dollars), Argentine police authorities seized additional pertinent evidence during the searches. As part of the continuing investigation, 28 people who were engaged in the 27 raids are now obligated to testify before local authorities.