“In this street six men abused a girl in broad daylight” | International

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Plaza Serrano is the heart of Palermo, one of the most touristic neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. It is surrounded by bars, shops and small clubs, which makes it a busy place at all hours. A few meters from that square, on February 28, Carnival Monday, a group of men allegedly raped a 20-year-old woman inside a car. A couple were playing guitar outside, suspected to warn others if someone was approaching and to mask any possible screams from the victim. "In this street six men abused a girl in broad daylight," says a poster hooked on one of the walls of Serrano street. "I want to go out without fear of being raped," says another poster. “Enough of rapists”, “If there is no consent there is rape”, add two more. The aberrant sexual crime has shocked the neighborhood and from there to all of Argentina.

The videos of the security cameras of the city and of some shops in the area captured the itinerary of the six young people since they arrived in Palermo until they were arrested by the police accused of aggravated sexual abuse. The maximum sentence for the crime they are accused of is 15 years. It is about Ángel Ramos, 23 years old; Tomas Dominguez, 21; Lautaro Pasotti, 24; Ignacio Retondo, 22; Alexis Cuzzoni, 20, and Franco Lykan, 24. They are friends and used to travel together. In their social networks, they are seen with backpacks on their shoulders in some Sierra de Córdoba, or sharing a barbecue. Retondo was a member of a Kirchnerist political group. He was studying International Relations at the University of San Martín, while Passotti was an Architecture student at the same university, but both have been preventively suspended by the university.

The suspects were arrested in the neighborhood of Palermo, Buenos Aires, on February 28, 2022.RR.SS.

The white Volkswagen Gol in which they were traveling crossed Córdoba Avenue in the direction of Serrano Street minutes before four in the morning on February 28. They parked it on Calle Serrano at 1,300, two blocks from the plaza. The young people went to the Espacio Ro nightclub, located about three hundred meters from there. The investigators suspect that in that place they met the victim, whose identity remains reserved. “We are very distressed to learn that both the victim and the rapists left our space that same Monday morning. We are especially saddened because we are a queer-feminist-dissident space, where we give special importance to the policy of care, ”the club wrote on its social networks once the sexual assault was made public.

At 12:29 p.m., the video from the security camera of the Diggs bar, on Calle Serrano at 1,500, captured the moment in which the young woman was hugging —or being held by— one of the defendants, dressed in a green cap and a T-shirt. grey, presumably Ramos. It is observed that she walked with some difficulty and that two of the other defendants —Domínguez and Cuzzoni— walked close to them and exchanged a few words.

Before heading to the vehicle, the group sat down at a kiosk on the same block. “They were here for about an hour. They came at 1:10 p.m. and I ended up throwing them out around 2:00 p.m. because they broke one of the tables,” Jonatan, an employee of the kiosk, says on Friday, two days after giving a statement for four hours in the court investigating the case. According to his testimony, the young woman arrived accompanied by Cuzzoni, they bought some beers and sat down to consume them. Then the others joined.

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"The kids were fine, they were aware of what they were doing, the one who was wrong was her," says Jonatan, "I talked to her because she asked me to go to the bathroom and she was staggering."

The exact time at which the group arrived at the car is not known, but it was already parked in front of the La Familia bakery when its owners, Natalia and Orlando, raised the blinds on Monday at seven in the morning. That day the pharmacy on the corner also opened, but not the Suerte Maldita bookstore across the street.

Natalia and Orlando were the first to realize what was happening outside their business and call the police. Seeing that he did not arrive, they went out to confront the suspects with a broomstick. “There was no other choice but to get involved, there was no time,” responds Orlando, who has become a hero for the neighborhood. Neighbors bring gifts to the couple, such as small chocolates and sweets, to thank them for taking action instead of looking the other way. The police have put them in custody due to the threats received.

“The car was there all morning, but it was empty. I don't know what time they arrived. But at 2:30 p.m., when I went out to the pharmacy and came back, I saw two guys playing guitar on the sidewalk. I asked them to move," says Orlando. “My wife called the police and a few minutes later, an acquaintance came over to see what was happening and the two kids who were the bell [avisar si viene alguien] They tried to kick him out. When I saw that situation I grabbed the broomstick and went out, ”he continues.

Between the two they confronted them and some suspects tried to escape, but were caught by other neighbors. They were also separated from her wife, whom one of them had dragged out of her car "by dragging her by the arm," according to Orlando. While some restrained her, the fight with the group of young people resumed, more neighbors approached and the police arrived.

The six men were arrested, while the young woman was transferred to the Rivadavia hospital. Agents seized marijuana and LSD found inside the car, as well as seven cell phones that are being examined for evidence.

"I didn't even have the strength to scream"

Natalia was not at the bakery this Friday, but in the previous days she told local media what she had seen. “I didn't hear screams, the girl wasn't screaming, she didn't even have the strength to scream. The four young men were also with their pants down, they began to insult us and wanted to attack us. They also hit a neighbor who wanted to record what was happening with a cell phone, so that there would be proof of what we had seen. They left that neighbor bloodied, lying on the floor”, he told La Nación.

The baker came over to talk to the victim. She was in shock and kept repeating that she didn't understand how she had agreed to get into the car. 'I don't know how I ended up there, they were raping me,' ” the young woman told Natalia, according to her account. 'Thank you for saving my life,'” she added.

Almost a week later, the entire neighborhood is still talking about an event that everyone refers to as 'The girl thing'. The horror is mixed with deep-seated prejudices, such as blaming the victim for the clothes she was wearing and calls for a heavy hand. "They are dressed in such a way that it is easy for them to be raped," says Guadalupe, 70, although she can even answer how the victim was dressed (with black pants and top). Another neighbor, Juan, 25 years old, wishes "that they rot in jail, that they never come out."

The Ministry of Security of the Nation registered 5,703 rape victims in 2020, 159 more than in 2019 and 1,437 more than in 2018. If all sexual assaults are taken into account, the cases of 2020 rise to 20,900. A twenty-year-old who attends one of the bars in the area claims to be "sad and anguished and fed up, very fed up." "Whatever this is, we have to stop it," she emphasizes and says she is counting down the hours until it is March 8 and hugging with her friends and other women in the demonstration against sexist violence called in the streets of the city.

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Nathan Rivera
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