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Gunmen leave threatening note for Lionel Messi at in-laws’ store

A police truck blocks the street outside the Unico supermarket, a grocery chain owned by the in-laws of Lionel Messi, after shots were fired at the store in Rosario, Argentina. (Sebastian Lopez Brach/AP)
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Gunmen who opened fire Thursday at a supermarket owned by the in-laws of Lionel Messi reportedly left a threatening note for the Argentine soccer star, saying they were “waiting” for him.

There were no injuries in the incident in the early morning hours at the Unico supermarket in Rosario, Messi’s hometown about 190 miles northwest of Buenos Aires. The store is owned by the family of Messi’s wife, Antonela Roccuzzo.

According to the Associated Press, police said two men on a motorcycle fired at least a dozen shots into the store’s metal shutters and front door, leaving a message on a piece of cardboard saying: “Messi, we’re waiting for you. [Mayor Pablo] Javkin is a drug trafficker, so he won’t take care of you.” Local reports, via the Mirror, speculated that barra bravas, Argentine football supporters, could be behind the attack, and a local TV station suggested that the gunmen may be trying to extort money from the star player.

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One of Roccuzzo’s cousins reportedly runs the store, one of a chain the Roccuzzo family has run in Rosario since the 1980s. Because Messi is a national hero and his in-laws at times still work in the store, it is a popular spot.

“Nothing like this had ever happened before. I was watching television when I heard [the gunshots at around 3 a.m.]. We all heard them. All the neighbors on the block went outside to see what had happened,” a man identified only as Oscar told El Pais, saying he lives next to the shop.

The attack was quickly picked up by local and international media, and it soon turned into a political discussion. Rosario has become one of the most dangerous places in Argentina, with more than 280 murders in 2022, according to Argentina’s former security secretary Eugenio Burzaco.

“The situation of such marked deterioration that devastates one of the main cities of the country is due to the advance of the drug mafias that today control the territory,” he said on a recent podcast shared by the news site Infobae.

At least 39 homicides occurred there during the first month of this year.

Security Minister Aníbal Fernández told local press that the government is working with over 3,500 security forces in Rosario to try to “reverse the situation” of insecurity there. “For 20 years this has been the situation,” he said.

President Alberto Fernández said he woke up to the news of the attack and called Javkin as soon as he heard. “We are doing a lot, but clearly we have to do more,” Fernández said during a visit to Salta. “The violence and organized crime problem is very serious.”

Former president Mauricio Macri wrote on Twitter that the attack is “Another warning to the national government and to that of Santa Fe that you cannot live with the drug trafficker.”

Javkin has been critical of federal authorities for what he said is a failure to end the city’s drug-related violence.

“It’s such [a] vicious [attack] that I question everything. Even that [it was done by] criminal gangs,” Javkin said, according to El Pais. “It is very clear that it is easy to harm Rosario and that there is no concrete help. How far away is the president from here, half an hour away? I am the mayor of the city. I do not manage the security forces, and when I [have] asked [to do it], they have not let me.”

Messi, who led Argentina to its first World Cup championship in 36 years in December, has had no comment on the incident and is in France, playing for Paris Saint-Germain. He often visits Rosario and has a home in the Funes suburb. He is expected to travel to the country at the end of March for the national team’s friendly matches against Panama and Curaçao.