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Argentina sees sabotage in train accident

09 June 2015, 07:00

Buenos Aires - Argentina's government alleged on Monday that a train accident that injured 40 people was an act of political sabotage targeting the transport minister, a candidate in upcoming presidential primaries.

The accident happened on Sunday night when a passenger train crashed into a locomotive that was manoeuvring into position on a commuter line linking Buenos Aires with the suburbs.

Except for a policeman with a fractured hip, the victims suffered only light injuries.

But President Cristina Kirchner's government alleged it was no mere coincidence that Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo had been due to preside over the ceremonial launch of 52 new train cars at the same station later on Monday.

"There's a mafia behind all this, with more businessmen than union members in some cases, who are working specifically for their own gain," cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez said at his morning press conference.

He lashed out at transport unions opposed to Kirchner, which have called a strike for Tuesday in a long-running dispute over wages and income taxes.

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"They are conspiring against a government that has worked hard to change the rail services for the citizens' benefit," he said.

Randazzo also alleged a conspiracy, saying that while he did not believe in witches, "when they exist, they exist."

He presented journalists with photographs and audio recordings he said proved the train driver ignored warnings to stop at a red light, even though he had passed physical, psychological and alcohol tests before his shift.

"There's no doubt it was an act of sabotage," he said.

"Randazzo always lies," fired back union leader Omar Maturano.

"But we're not going to defend the indefensible. If the driver is guilty he's guilty. He must be removed from service and tried."

Kirchner has moved to re-nationalise commuter rail lines privatised in the 1990s, blaming private ownership for a series of accidents and problems.

Randazzo, a key backer of the nationalisations, is vying with Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli to represent Kirchner's Front for Victory (FPV) party in the October 25 elections.

They will face off in a primary on August 9.



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