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Bitter Storekeepers Say Their Customers Looted Shops With AM-Argentina

June 1, 1989

SAN MIGUEL, Argentina (AP) _ Nervous and bitter shop owners cleaned debris from their looted businesses Wednesday and complained the thieves included many of their customers.

The owners of a supermarket in the capital’s Moreno suburb retaliated and killed two looters when they opened fire Wednesday on a crowd trying to ransack their shop. The independent news agency Diarios y Noticias reported the shootings and said police have arrested the shop owners.

″It makes me mad,″ said the owner of ″Dorita″ neighborhood grocery in San Miguel, a northwestern suburb of Buenos Aires.

The looters ″took everything and a lot of them were former customers of mine,″ added the shopkeeper, a Spanish immigrant who refused to give his name.

″Someday I’ll have to reopen my business, and if I complain too much they may take reprisals against me,″ he said, looking at the broken windows, bent metal shutters and empty shelves.

Only a clock on the wall was left inside the shop.

San Miguel, a largely middle-class neighborhood partially surrounded by slum areas, was the scene of some of Tuesday night’s worst violence.

Hundreds of rioters, many of them slum-dwellers, ran through the streets battling outnumbered police, breaking windows and sacking markets, shoe stores and sporting goods shops.

Police and armed civilians filled the main streets Wednesday. The civilians refused to speak to reporters but appeared to be guards hired by shop owners.

″Give us food or we’ll break everything,″ a poorly dressed youth shouted outside a market guarded by three uniformed police and two armed civilians. The owner peered nervously around the door.

In the only violence reported in the suburb Wednesday, about 200 people looted a small main street butchery.

″They took everything, even the bones,″ said the owner, who also refused to identify himself for fear of reprisals.

″First about 30 people came to the shop, and while we were talking they pushed me aside and ran inside, followed by a lot more,″ he said.

He claimed to have seen agitators who told the looters ″to be calm, that there was enough for everyone and if there wasn’t sufficient meat to go around they would go someplace else.″

Cesar Melville, owner of a small market, pushed a broom across the littered floor of his business, aided by seven employees.

″They took everything, my friend, even the cash register and a broken chair,″ he said in an interview.

″I asked them to just take the food, but they grabbed clothing, wine and coffee.

″It’s a good thing my dog wasn’t here, or they would have taken him too.″

More than 100 persons were milling near a street which links San Miguel with neighboring Castelar, where rioting and looting also occurred Tuesday night.

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