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Residents of Argentinian capital block roads in protest over 'killer' cocaine arrests

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By Euronews  with AFT, AP
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Residents of Argentinian capital block roads in protest over 'killer' cocaine arrests
Copyright  Rodrigo Abd/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Residents of a neighbourhood in the outskirts of the Argentinian capital have blocked the main motorway into the city for the third day running after the authorities made a series of arrests over tampered cocaine that turned deadly. 

The residents of the poor Puerta 8 neighbourhood, 40 km from Buenos Aires, are protesting the arrest of over 13 people from the area who are allegedly linked to the adulterated batch of the drug that killed 24 people.

It is understood that the cocaine which was likely laced with opioids was bought from the area. 

23 of the people who took the illegal drug are still hospitalised. Two are in a critical condition on mechanical ventilation. 

It is thought that as many as 200 people sought medical attention after taking the drugs.

Most of the people who died passed away far from the alleged point of sale, 12 at home and two on the road, unable to make it to a hospital due to the sudden effects. Many suffered heart attacks.

Locals feel targeted in crackdown

People living in Puerta 8 say that a lot of the people rounded up by police are low-level drug dealers or runners and some are completely innocent.

Lucía Galloso, the grandmother of one of the suspects Priscila Faunde, thinks that the police are deliberately going after innocent people. 

She is concerned that her family cannot pay for a lawyer for her granddaughter because they already do not have enough money to eat.

Police have so far seized more than 20,000 doses of cocaine in a recent crackdown, but have not revealed how many of these were from the laced batch.

The deaths from the adulterated cocaine have highlighted the dangers of illegal drug use -- especially of cheap, low-quality cocaine sold and consumed in Buenos Aires' poorest communities.

At least 250,000 doses of cocaine are sold daily in the Buenos Aires province, according to its minister of security Sergio Berni. 40% of Argentina's population lives in the province, while the poverty rates in the country remain significant.

Authorities are looking into whether the drug's toxic composition was accidental or an attempt to settle a score with rival gangs.

The investigation into the deaths is still ongoing. The public prosecutor said what happened was "unprecedented" in the South American country.