15-Year-Old Hit Man Kills Gas Station Employee in Argentina on Orders from Prison

A 15-year-old hitman hired by drug traffickers kills a gas station employee in Rosario, Argentina, as incarcerated gang leaders orchestrate a surge of cartel violence, testing the new president's security agenda.

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Salman Akhtar
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15-Year-Old Hit Man Kills Gas Station Employee in Argentina on Orders from Prison

15-Year-Old Hit Man Kills Gas Station Employee in Argentina on Orders from Prison

A 15-year-old hit man hired by drug traffickers tied to a notorious gang killed 25-year-old gas station employee Bruno Bussanich in Rosario, Argentina on March 9, 2024. The order to kill came from inside a federal prison near the capital, as authorities inadvertently patched a call from the drug traffickers to their collaborators on the outside.

The young hit man shot Bussanich three times from less than a foot away at a service station in Rosario, the hometown of soccer star Lionel Messi, but did not take any money before fleeing the scene. Authorities say incarcerated gang bosses have been passing instructions on how to kill random civilians via family visits and video calls, paying underage hit men up to $450 to target victims.

Why this matters: The killing of Bussanich is part of an unprecedented surge of drug cartel violence in Rosario, which has seen its homicide rate skyrocket to five times the national average as it has become a major drug trafficking hub. The incident presents an early test for the security agenda of populist President Javier Milei, who has promised to prosecute gang members as terrorists and deploy the military to combat the violence.

Rosario, once known for being the birthplace of revolutionary Che Guevara, has grown notorious as regional crackdowns have pushed the narcotics trade south and the fragmentation of street gangs has fueled bloodshed. Imprisoned gang leaders orchestrated the murder of Bussanich and other victims, including two taxi drivers and a bus driver, in less than a week, shattering the peace of the entire society.

Authorities have ramped up prison raids, seized smuggled cellphones, and restricted visits in an effort to clamp down on incarcerated criminal groups, which they say planned 80% of the shootings in Rosario last year. However, some residents fear they are caught in the crossfire of the government's combative approach. "There are shootings every night," said Norma Sánchez, 38, who lives in a poor neighborhood controlled by drug traffickers. "We are living in fear, unable to let our children play outside."

Key Takeaways

  • 15-year-old hit man killed gas station worker in Rosario, Argentina on March 9, 2024.
  • Order to kill came from drug traffickers in federal prison, authorities intercepted call.
  • Rosario faces unprecedented surge in drug cartel violence, homicide rate 5x national average.
  • Imprisoned gang leaders orchestrated murders, authorities struggle to curb incarcerated criminals.
  • Residents live in fear, unable to let children play outside due to frequent shootings.