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The history of what happened in Santa Fe during the 2003 flood is well known. The Salado River overcame the precarious defenses of the west of the city and the water ruthlessly swept much of it. In that sad context, there were phrases by the leaders of the — at that time — mayor and governor that remained in the memory . Not for being funny or hopeful, but on the contrary, for being nefarious . In that sense, the people of Santafesino had memory and, although they were not institutionally tried, they did suffer the social condemnation of all the people.
The quartermaster of Marcelo Álvarez ran between 1999 and 2003. He didn't have a particularly bad management, until the time of the flood. It was the last of a long follow of Peronist mayors (from the dictatorship until then, they were the only political force that ruled the city) and were increasingly struggling for change.
All the good that Alvarez could have done in his government came to his side when he decided to speak at the local media microphones that morning of April 29. The break in the embankment had already occurred and it was not stopping raining. The neighbors were, logically, very worried because they felt the water was coming. Literally. The mayor had no better idea than to state the following: “To the neighbor who is talking about the south, I tell him we have no problems in casabomba number 1. The whole Centenario neighborhood, the town of Centenario, Chalet, San Lorenzo , El Arenal, will not have any kind of inconvenience. The southwest of the city is not going to have problems.” He told all those people to stay calm, that he wasn't going to flood. A few hours later, they were flooded. The largest number of deaths from the river crossing was recorded in these areas.
After five consecutive days of rains, between 29 April and 5 May 2003, water was concentrated in the river Salado and generated excessive water growth. Although it is said to be not a predictable phenomenon, since March of that year several media have been publishing news about an extraordinary increase in the levels of the Salado River. Many predicted that this would end in an extraordinary flood that eventually happened.
Alvarez was charged in a case, driven by associations formed by the flooded people, where he was accused of “culpable havoc aggravated by the deaths.” He was charged with the Minister of Public Works Edgardo Berli and the Director of Hydraulic Works, Ricardo Fratti.
The mayor appeared four times in the case but did not come to know the sentence, as on April 9, 2018, Alvarez died as a result of a severe heart attack. In all his appearances concerning the flood he claimed that “there were no certainty that any provincial, national, army or gendarmerie official has anticipated what was going to happen”
At the time of the flood, Carlos Reutemann was finishing his second term as governor. When water was already ravading the neighborhoods in Santa Fe , he himself approached a school in Barrio Roma to help people place sandbags on the gates. Work that was in vain, in front of the flow that arrived. In a hurry by the journalists, the former president threw “no one told me that this could happen.”
Shortly thereafter, we all learned that, in reality, the problem was not so much that the defenses gave in, but that a stretch of more than 200 meters of these had never been completed.
As to whether he was aware or not, he transcended that the National University of the Litoral had long been presenting a project, product of serious research, announcing that this tragedy could happen.
With multiple cases open, Reutemann has no convictions as responsible for what happened to Santa Fe in 2003.
Publication Date: 29/04/2020
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