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One dead in Argentina looting after police strike

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Police in Argentina's second largest city agreed to resume their patrols Wednesday after a 24-hour strike sparked looting that left one dead and 100 injured, an official said.

Provincial governor Jose Manuel de la Sota told reporters a deal to end the walkout in Cordoba was reached after a three-hour meeting with police.

The resolution came after criminal gangs took advantage of the absence of law enforcement and ransacked stores.

Fifty-two people were arrested while 100 were wounded, he said.

The slain man, a 20-year-old, was shot in the chest and pronounced dead on arrival at Cordoba's San Roque hospital, director Daniel Mercado told a local radio station.

It was unclear whether the victim was participating in the looting or a bystander, Mercado said.

Some 3,000 police out of Cordoba province's 22,000-strong force had refused to leave their police stations to go on patrol Tuesday.

Officers demanded higher salaries and better working conditions, said a lawyer for the police, Miguel Ortiz Pellegrini.

The deal reached Wednesday foresees a roughly 50 percent wage increase, about half what the officers wanted, said Oscar Gonzalez, head of the provincial cabinet.

Looters, some on motorcycles, ransacked stores and supermarkets as they took advantage of the absence of police Tuesday night, local TV footage showed. Some vandals even entered private homes to demand money, victims said.

A group of students in the Villa Allende university district, on the outskirts of the city, took to the streets with hockey sticks to defend against the assailants, they told local journalists.

By morning, calm had mostly returned to the city, though there were isolated incidents put down by neighbors, according to television footage.

Schools and public transportation were shut down as a precaution, officials said, and shops, banks and gas stations were also closed as residents stayed home, local media reported.

"This was not poverty-motivated looting -- there has been no stealing of food. The presence here has been criminal," Pedro Torres, Cordoba's Auxiliary Bishop, told local TV.

In the Cerveceros neighborhood, a wife of one of the policeman who had refused to work offered "apologies to the neighbors."

De la Sota -- who returned from Panama to deal with the situation -- had demanded the policemen return to work Wednesday, threatening punishment of those who did not.

As a member of a dissident faction of the ruling Peronist party, De la Sota also accused the government of President Cristina Kirchner of ignoring his pleas for help.

But Kirchner's chief of staff, Jorge Capitanich, said the provincial government had "exclusive" responsibility for the situation.

Security Secretary Sergio Berni, meanwhile, had announced he was deploying 2,000 gendarmes to the province.

Cordoba province, with a population of 3.5 million, is Argentina's second largest after Buenos Aires province. Cordoba is a big agricultural producer as well as a lure for tourists who come to enjoy its countryside.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131204/one-dead-argentina-looting-after-police-strike-0