Gunmen threatened Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi in a written message left on Thursday when they opened fire on a supermarket owned by his in-laws in Argentina, police said.
No one was injured in the early morning attack and it was unclear why the attackers would target Messi or the Unico supermarket in the country’s third-largest city, Rosario, owned by the family of his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo .
The city’s mayor, Pablo Javkin, went to the supermarket and lashed out at federal authorities for his failure to contain a wave of drug-related violence in Rosario, about 300 kilometers northwest of the capital of Buenos Aires. curb.
According to police, two men on a motorcycle fired at least a dozen shots at a Unico facility in the early hours, leaving a message on cardboard that read, “Messi, we are waiting for you. Javkin is also a drug trafficker, so he won’t take care of you.
Messi has not responded. Considered by many to be the greatest footballer of all time, Messi is revered in Argentina, especially as he led the national team to its first World Cup victory in 36 years in Qatar in December.
Messi currently plays for Paris Saint-Germain and spends much of his time abroad, although he often visits Rosario, where he has a home in the suburb of Funes. The French team posted a photo on social media of Messi’s training on Thursday morning.
In Rosario, prosecutor Federico Rébola said authorities were reviewing security camera footage and the investigation was “preliminary”. It was the first time Messi’s in-laws received such threats, he added.
Celia Arena, attorney general for Santa Fe county, where Rosario is based, said the attack amounted to “terrorism” by a “mafia group” designed to intimidate the wider population.
“The aim is to deliberately instill terror in the population and discourage those of us who are fighting against criminal violence, knowing that it will be an event of global significance,” Arena wrote in a social media post.
Javkin, a center-left politician who opposed the ruling Peronist coalition, appeared to suspect both criminal gangs and federal security officials of complicity in the attack.
“I doubt everyone, even those who are supposed to protect us,” Javkin said in an interview with a local radio station.
He said he had had “very strong discussions” with members of the federal security forces in recent weeks demanding that they crack down on crime in the city.
“Where are those who should take care of us?” Javkin said. “Obviously those who have the guns and the ability to investigate the criminals aren’t doing it, and it’s very easy for any gang to do something like that.”
Federal government security minister Aníbal Fernández said drug-related violence was not a recent phenomenon in the city, and Thursday’s attack was typical of what has happened there “for the past 20 years.”
He said the incident was an example of how drug traffickers “won” in Rosario, but now “we need to reverse that.”
Opposition politicians blamed the government of President Alberto Fernández for the ongoing violence in Rosario. His predecessor, Mauricio Macri, characterized the events as a warning that the country cannot “coexist” with drug traffickers.
Messi, 35, is currently renegotiating a contract with Paris Saint-Germain that expires this year amid speculation that the football superstar could decide to end his career playing for one of the local Rosario clubs, Newell’s.
Messi, who won FIFA’s best male player award this week, could travel to Argentina later this month to play two friendlies alongside the national side. One will take place on March 23 against Panama in Buenos Aires, the other five days later against Curaçao in the northern city of Santiago del Estero.