Following a clampdown on the electronic music scene in Buenos Aires earlier this year, there's been a surge in clandestine raves in the outskirts of the Argentine capital, where cheap drugs and alcohol are welcome along with the occasional gun. Party organizers looking to make a buck by cramming thousands of kids onto large country estates, or quintas, without having local law enforcement find out have designed an effective system combining Argentina's two most popular social media platforms.
First, you get the word out via Facebook, splashing your party's (often unimaginative) name across the interwebs with such details as the nature of the event and the day and time—but not the location itself. That particular bit is never actually revealed: instead, on the day of, young revelers typically between 15 and 18 years old are instructed via WhatsApp to gather at a particular spot where buses then transport them to the party.
Project XXX, one such secret party, drew national attention to the phenomenon in late September when a 19-year-old attendee was killed in the crossfire of a gang fight. The violence hardly came as a surprise: the event's Facebook page instructed attendees to bring their beverage, drug, and gun of choice, and several attendees voiced their concern on the social media channel. The mayor of Moreno, the municipality in which Project XXX took place, later begrudgingly admitted that his security forces hadn't been able to intervene because they lacked "the structure" to do so.
"The address wasn't indicated on Facebook," he told press.
Juan Tanos, Moreno's public communications coordinator, confirmed to Motherboard that local police are not equipped to patrol social media.
"That would fall into the hands of an intelligence unit that functions at a national level," he said. "But that intelligence right now is more concerned with political objectives." Corruption at the state level, we assume he means.
But would more effective means of monitoring social media help prevent future violence?
Claudio Izaguirre, the president of the Argentina Antidrug Association (Asociación Antidrogas de la República Argentina), told Motherboard he doesn't think so.
Izaguirre argues that local politicians turn a blind eye to these sorts of parties because they don't want to risk losing votes among the youth. Argentines can vote as young as 16, before being legally obliged to do so from 18 on.
"The mayor of Moreno is between a rock and a hard place. The municipalities generally don't want to intervene in parties, but they can't have a death on their hands either," he said.
Izaguirre told me that clandestine parties typically fall into one of two categories, depending on attendees' socio-economic background: those like Project XXX, in which cheaper drugs such as marijuana and cocaine paste are consumed (and at which you're more likely to see gang violence in the form of shootouts or knife fights); and wealthier deals that are used as marketing grounds for designer drugs. Those especially manage to evade the law thanks to secret agreements between party organizers and local politicians, Izaguirre claimed.
"You can bet that for these kinds of parties, at least one party organizer will have some connection within the local judiciary, enabling them to bypass certain regulations, he said."
So it looks like we can expect to see many future Project XXXs in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, thanks to "untamed" social media, and petty corruption.
Electronic music festivals were banned in Buenos Aires back in April after five young people between the ages of 20 and 25 died at Time Warp after consuming an ecstasy-based pill called Superman. Local venues have since taken a hit due to their inability to meet many of the new safety regulations imposed by the city government.
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