Argentine Court Convicts Band In Nightclub Fire
An appeals court reversed their previous innocent verdicts in a tragedy that became a symbol of government failures in Argentina.
The band members now face up to 11 years each in prison after being found responsible for bribery as well as involuntarily starting the fire at the Cromagnon Republic, an overcrowded working-class nightclub.
A concertgoer shot a flare into the club’s flammable ceiling during a 2004 show, sending toxic smoke through the hall. Most of the victims were trapped and choked to death.
The convicted bandmembers are Patricio Santos Fontanet, Christian Torrejon, Eduardo Vazquez, Elio Delgado, Juan Alberto Carbone, Maximiliano Djerfy and Daniel Cardell.
The court also reversed a finding of innocence for a former top city inspector, Gustavo Torres, finding him guilty of failing to perform his public duties.
But the appeals judges downgraded the convictions of concert promoter Omar Chaban, finding that while he actively was involved in bribery, his role in the fire was involuntary, not intentional; and former police officer Carlos Diaz and band manager Diego Argaranaz. They’ll likely get prison sentences far less than the 20 years they faced under the trial verdicts.
The band was in charge of the concert’s organization, security and crowd control that night. Evidence showed that the club was given a permit even though it lacked such basic security measures as fire extinguishers, working emergency exits, and nonflammable walls and ceilings.
Most of the victims were young and lacked prospects in an economy then emerging from collapse. The Callejeros – “Street People” – sang an anthem, “The Invisible Ones,” that stirred the same anger among marginalized people that Argentine first lady Eva Peron spoke of decades earlier in fiery anti-poverty speeches invoking “the shirtless ones.”