República Cromañón nightclub fire
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The República Cromañón nightclub fire occurred in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 30 December 2004, and killed 194 people. The tragedy was symbolic of government failure in Argentina, since the club had received a permit despite lacking basic fire safety measures like fire extinguishers.
Cromañón Republic was a facility that held concerts and events. It was located on 3060/3066/3070 Bartolomé Mitre in the Balvanera neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. It was operated by Omar Chabán, and opened on 12 April 2004.
The venue was hosting rock group Callejeros and around 3,000 people were in attendance. The blaze was started when a pyrotechnic flare (a popular device in New Year's Eve celebrations) was set off and ignited foam in the ceiling. The materials used in the building for decoration were flammable: mostly wood, styrofoam, acoustic panels and a plastic net (a so-called media sombra). This plastic net was hung from the ceiling and caught fire first, melting into a rain of fire. In some parts of the building, teddy bear stuffing was used as a cheap alternative to wool fiber. The owner and the band's lead singer had told the patrons not to use flares inside the building.
Four of the six doors, some of which were fire exits, were chained shut so that "people would not enter without paying", according to Mayor Aníbal Ibarra. Most of the victims died from inhaling poisonous gases, and carbon monoxide.
Following the disaster, an Argentine judge issued a national and international arrest order against Omar Chabán, local businessman and owner of República Cromañón and other nightclubs, including one called Cemento that had been closed by court orders many times before. Chabán was located at one of his houses in the neighbourhood of Montserrat and was arrested.
Police are still seeking those responsible for setting off the flare. If they are found (some reports say they have already been identified and that they are children), then they could face eight to twenty years in prison.
President Néstor Kirchner decreed three days of national mourning, and city authorities forbade concerts and closed all nightclubs in Buenos Aires during the mourning period, only to open again, one by one, after they had been checked and approved by the fire department.
It later became known that República Cromañón had been overdue for a fire hazard inspection since late November 2004. Although Buenos Aires Mayor Anibal Ibarra blamed the Fire Department of the Argentine Federal Police (responsible for the inspections), several flaws in the city's inspection system soon surfaced. In addition to the city's poor planning for a disaster of this magnitude, critics pointed to Ibarra for failing to reorganize Buenos Aires' inspection system. A few days after the fire, Ibarra reshuffled the entire Buenos Aires security and emergency administration. The City Legislature announced that Mayor Ibarra was going to face a questioning session, but failed to achieve the necessary votes to force his questioning. Shortly thereafter, Ibarra voluntarily submitted to a questioning session, and announced a recall referendum to decide whether he would remain in office or not.
Relatives and friends of the dead organized several marches to Plaza de Mayo demanding the resignation of Aníbal Ibarra as Mayor of Buenos Aires, the conviction of Omar Chabán, and a more efficient inspection system. Some of these marches ended with incidents between protesters and the police.
On 14 November 2005, an impeachment jury formed by the Buenos Aires Legislature suspended Mayor Ibarra for four months, pending an investigation of his performance that could lead to his destitution. He accused the opposition of manipulating the families of República Cromañón's victims in order to ruin his career. On 7 March 2006, after four months of deliberations, the impeachment jury voted to remove Ibarra from office.
A trial started on 19 August 2008 and finished 1 year later. The defendants were sentenced as follows:
- Omar Chabán: 20-year prison sentence
- Raúl Villarreal: 1-year suspended prison sentence
- Callejeros: Acquitted, then retried in 2011: 11-year prison sentence
- Diego Argañaraz (manager of Callejeros): 18-year prison sentence
- Fabiana Fiszbin (ex Control secretary): 2-year prison sentence
- Ana María Fernández (ex Buenos Aires government servant): 2-year prison sentence
- Subcommissioner Carlos Díaz: 18-year prison sentence
- Commissioner Miguel Belay: acquitted
- List of nightclub fires
- Circumstances of the following fires have strong similarities to the República Cromañón nightclub fire:
- "Argentina: 7 Members of Band Convicted in Club Fire". nytimes.com. April 20, 2011. Retrieved 2012.
- Documentary Video explaining several government flaws that led to the tragedy
- Fire at Buenos Aires Nightclub Kills 174" at ABCNEWS.com
- "Scores die in Argentina club fire" at BBC news
- Que No Se Repita: Main organization that groups victim and survivor families and is undertaking legal actions.
- The official list of death in the tragedy
- Los pibes de Cromañón Memoria y Justicia por Nuestros Pibes - Grupo de Familiares, amigos y sobrevivientes de Cromañón.