But members of the Los Callejeros band were absolved of criminal responsibility for the tragedy, which became emblematic of government failures in Argentina, and those convicted were allowed to remain free on appeal.
The verdicts prompted an uproar in the courtroom and the streets outside as police struggled to separate family members and followers of the band who punched each other in frustration and anger.
Many survivors saw the long-awaited 2,500-page court ruling as key test of their demands to transform society. But the sort of corruption and negligence that contributed to the choking blaze inside the overcrowded Cromagnon Republic nightclub remains endemic in Argentina.
The political movement created by families of the victims – most of them poor youths with grim prospects in the Argentine economy – spoke of empowering voters to shake up a system that enabled police and inspectors to let people carry fireworks into a nightclub where nearly 3,000 people squeezed into a space designed for 1,000.
They succeeded in ousting the city’s mayor, Anibel Ibarra. Some clubs, particularly in upscale neighborhoods, now follow stricter building codes. But the families say little else has been accomplished.
“Nearly 200 deaths merit a real transformation, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened,” said Alberto Urcullu, who lost his daughter Maria Sol in the fire. “The responsible ones must pay.”
Club owner and concert promoter Omar Chaban was given 20 years for crimes that caused the deadly fire and for bribery. His assistant, along with band manager and a high-ranking police official were given 18 years. Three city inspectors were given 2-year sentences for dereliction of duty. All remain free pending appeals.