Messi’s gritty hometown set for glam wedding

- Agence France-Presse, ROSARIO

Jun 26, 2017-

Security is at the top of everyone’s minds in Rosario, Argentina these days.

On Friday, football superstar Lionel Messi will be married there to Antonella Roccuzzo at a lavish celebration bringing together some of the world’s best-paid football players, just up the street from one of the city’s poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods. Some 21 members of the hugely popular FC Barcelona team, including Luis Suarez and Neymar, as well as stars like Gerard Pique—accompanied by partner Shakira, perhaps more popular than the Catalan defender himself—will be flying into this port city 300 kilometers north of Buenos Aires.

The luxurious City Center casino-hotel complex, where guests will stay and the ceremony is expected to take place, borders a poor neighborhood known as the birthplace of the bloody drug gang Los Monos. “Messi’s marriage—like the casino’s presence in the neighborhood—is a metaphor for inequality,” provincial official Carlos Del Frade, author of several books on Rosario’s exploding drug trade, said.

A mere 400 meters from the bright lights and neon of City Center, two people on a motorcycle opened fire on June 17 on four women belonging to Los Monos. The attack claimed the life of Petrona Cantero, 56, the sister of Ariel Cantero, the historic leader of Los Monos, who is now serving a prison sentence.

Drug gang-linked violence has claimed more than 1,000 lives in the past five years in this gritty port city, Del

Frade said.

Messi’s father, a metalworker here in the 1990s, emigrated with his family to Barcelona in 2000, amid the grave economic crisis then facing Argentina. Today, the government in Rosario says it feels confident the safety of the illustrious visitor and his guests can be assured, regardless of the high crime rate. “Rosario is prepared for the wedding,” city administrator Monica Fein said.

For now, the details of the planned security operation remain closely guarded. Last week, local officials met with representatives of the Messi family, but no information leaked out, including on the location of the meeting itself, which was changed at the last moment to keep journalists away.

Published: 26-06-2017 08:57

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