Buenos Aires mayor sacked over deadly club fire

The city’s legislature had impeached mayor Ibarra over the death of 194 people in December 2004, in what is the worst disaster in the history of Argentina.

Buenos Aires lawmakers ousted mayor Anibal Ibarra on Tuesday, stating that he failed to enforce safety codes that might have prevented the night club fire that killed 194 people in December 2004. Ten out of fifteen lawmakers voted against Ibarra, who attended to the legislature hall with his defendant Julio Cesar Strassera, the chief prosecutor that indicted the members of the bloody military juntas that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983.

Charges voted by the lawmakers ranged from negligence to corruption that the victims' families blame for Argentina's worst tragedy in history. Lawmakers that voted against Ibarra came from far-left parties as the Trotskyite Self Determination and Freedom (or Autonomia y Libertad, in Spanish) to the right-wing force PRO. Also, a lawmaker aligned to president Nestor Kirchner, Ibarra’s closest ally, voted for the removal of the mayor.

Ibarra, who attended to the session, said he was not going to give up. “This is not the end. This is just the beginning”, he told his supporters. Deputy mayor Jorge Telermann, also siding with hegemonic president Nestor Kirchner, will complete Ibarra’s term which expires in 2007.

Outside the legislature, hundreds of families and friends of the victims who had been calling for Ibarra's removal, cried and hugged each other after hearing the verdict. They held up photographs of teenage rock fans killed in the blaze. Ibarra, who has governed the city for six years, was suspended from office in November pending an investigation into the accusations along with charges of irregularities in the city's licensing and fire inspections of the club.

Money and pressure

Lawmakers in charge of the impeachment were put under strong pressure by both the relatives of the killed and the administration of Buenos Aires and the national presidency. Two lawmakers in charge of judging Ibarra confirmed to Pravda.Ru that they were offered “money and posts at the local legislature” to change their votes against the sacked mayor.

The number of those who were against Ibarra was kept in secret until the voting session. Ibarra and his defendants that the mayor would have been absolved, but they miscalculated.

The fire at the Republica Cromagnon club started when concert-goers shot a flare into the ceiling, igniting flammable soundproofing material. But the death toll was magnified because the clubs emergency exits were locked and the windows were blocked preventing many of the 5,000 fans from escaping the toxic smoke.

Hernan Etchaleco

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov