BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Confusion reigned in Argentina on Saturday, as hours after the president and vice-president celebrated the capture of three notorious criminals, the country’s top police official said only one had actually been apprehended.
The nearly two-week nationwide manhunt appeared to have finally come to an end in the afternoon, when several police and top politicians said that authorities had apprehended Victor Schialli and brothers Martin and Cristian Lanatta.
The three escaped from the General Alvear prison in Buenos Aires province the day after Christmas and had been on the run ever since. They were convicted in 2008 of killing three men allegedly connected to an ephedrine trafficking ring.
President Mauricio Macri, Vice-President Gabriela Michetti, Cabinet chief Marcos Pena and Maria Eugenia Vidal, governor of the Buenos Aires province, tweeted congratulatory messages to security forces and promised to continue the fight against drug trafficking.
But a few hours later, the head of the South American nation’s federal police force said that in fact only Martin Lanatta had been captured.
“We continue to intensely search for the two (other) fugitives,” said Roman di Santo.
How the information was bungled was unclear, but it’s an embarrassment for Macri’s administration, which has only been in power one month.
The search, which has often been broadcast live on national television channels, has focused attention on Argentina’s drug problems, which Macri vowed to combat throughout his election campaign.
The escape of the men has also had political reverberations in the highly polarized country: One of the three convicts last year claimed former presidential Cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez was the mastermind of the killings. Fernandez has repeatedly denied the allegation.