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Ningún vecino de Río Tercero, en la provincia de Córdoba, puede olvidar el 3 de noviembre de 1995. Photo: Urgente24.
No resident of Río Tercero, in Córdoba, can forget the 3rd of November, 1995. Photo: Urgente24.

The Argentine city that refuses to mourn Menem

On February 24, the former president was to sit in the dock for a tragedy during his years of corruption.

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Río Tercero, a town of barely 50,000 inhabitants in the province of Cordoba (Argentina), still remembers with horror the noise of the explosions on the morning of the 3rd of November, 1995, at barely five minutes to 9 o'clock. 

The blasts had occurred in the military Factory's unloading platform and were followed by a larger explosion in the expedition and supply depot. 

A gigantic mushroom cloud of smoke and tongues of flame emerged, distributing shrapnel throughout the city. In neighbourhoods such as the Escuela, Las Violetas, Cerino and Libertador, according to the subsequent case file. 

People ran in panic, fleeing from the shells that killed 7 people and wounded 300, none of them military personnel. 

That same day, then-President Carlos Menem travelled to the city to tell the media that it had all been a tragic accident. 

"You have the obligation to spread the word," Menem told the press conference. 

But that's not what happened.

The explosions, the Argentine judiciary claimed after a two-decade-long trial, were "intentionally caused" and four military leaders were tried for it. However, behind the disaster that Menem was trying to pass off as an accident was an arms smuggling scandal in which his government was embroiled.

The judge in the case, Carlos Ochoa, concluded that the explosion at the Río Tercero factory was provoked to dispose of illegal weapons, and that put Carlos Menem in the spotlight. 

In 2013, the former president was indicted in the case and Río Tercero declared him persona non grata in the town. 

Ironically, on 24 February Menem was to be tried as the alleged "perpetrator-by-means" of the tragedy. But he died on 14 February, just 10 days before justice was to be done. 

Repairing the damage

After learning of the former Argentinean president's death, current president Alberto Fernández decreed a three-day national mourning period that ends tomorrow.

But the city of Río Tercero does not intend to mourn the man allegedly responsible for the tragedy. 

"The city of Río Tercero decided not to join the national mourning for the death of Carlos Saúl Menem today, which was decreed by the national government," local authorities said in a statement.

They also added that the city "will not pay tribute" to Carlos Menem, because "he is accused of being the main person responsible for the bombing of the Río Tercero Military Factory explosions".

The 12,000 inhabitants who sued the state for the innumerable damages caused are still awaiting compensation, which is currently being processed. 

However, the local government also has a request to make of the Peronist Alberto Fernández to compensate for the economic and demographic slowdown the city suffered in that black 1995:

Río Tercero wants a university.

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