BUENOS AIRES – Survivors and family members of the victims of the fire that ravaged the Republica Cromañon nightclub in the Argentine capital 10 years gathered to pay tribute to the 194 people who lost their lives in the tragedy.
The tributes began on Tuesday morning with an open radio at the shrine mounted in the Once neighborhood, a few meters from where stood the club and where, now, one can see murals, shoes hung from ropes – an image that has become a symbol of the tragedy – and huge photos of the victims’ faces.
By afternoon, the hub of activity had moved to the central Plaza de Mayo in front of the government headquarters where concerts were held, T-shirts printed with slogans demanding justice and there was a “hopscotch” to remember the victims with shoe prints.
Later a mass was held in the cathedral at the end of which human rights organizations and the survivors and victims’ families read the names of the 194 people who died and two documents renewing their appeals for justice.
At night, the family members marched to the shrine made at the gate of the premises where the club was located and which remain closed.
“This event has a twin purpose: on one hand, to pay tribute to the youth who are no longer with us, and to give strength to the survivors who cannot be blamed for being alive. They did everything possible,” said Raul Morales, father of Sophia who died in the fire, and Martin and Santiago, who survived it.
The fire, one of the worst tragedies in the country, occurred on Dec. 30, 2004 when some 6,000 people were gathered in the nightclub that had a capacity for 4,000, for a rock concert of the Callejeros band.
At nearly midnight, a Bengali girl set fire to the fabric decorating the club causing chaos among the people present who tried to escape from the smoke and flames but found the emergency exits blocked.
“The kids were not killed by the Bengali girl, nor by rock and roll, but that which is a part of a system and which if it continues operating as it does will result in more Cromañons,” said Maria Matilde Mongone, who lost her husband in the accident.
According to the victims, the charges leveled against the person they consider mainly responsible for the tragedy, the nightclub manager, Omar Chaban, who died of cancer in November, were too lenient.
Chaban, who was granted house arrest in 2013 due to his illness, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to a 10-year imprisonment term after the dismissal of several judicial appeals.
Meanwhile, the manager’s assistant, Raul Alcides Villareal, who could face up to seven years in prison, and the members of Callejeros are awaiting a revision of the sentence.
On Tuesday, the judicial authorities announced that they will be starting the process of the revision of the sentence in March 2015.
A police deputy commissioner, various officials of the government of Buenos Aires, and the club’s owner, Rafael Levy, have also been handed prison sentences.
However, family members and fire’s survivors also accuse then mayor of the city, Anibal Ibarra, who was forced to step down from his post for mishandling the incident.