May 24, 2013
Crime and misjudgment
By Michael Soltys
Buenos Aires Herald Senior Editor
There are both positive and negative aspects to Security Secretary Sergio Berni taking such a forthright stance on last week’s rape-murder of the radiology technician Tatiana Kolodziez in Chaco, accusing the judge granting parole to the recidivist rapist now being charged with the crime of being responsible for a needless death. Just as it is extremely rare to see a government official taking responsibility instead of dodging it (as Defence Minister Arturo Puricelli did on the same day as Berni’s outburst with regard to the compounded naval training frigate Libertad’s ill-starred Ghana destination), so is it refreshing to see a member of the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration talking openly about crime instead of evading the subject or even trying to deny its existence altogether — even if it is odd that these statements are coming from Security Minister Nilda Garré’s second-in-command and not Garré herself.
Yet at the same time it seems that Berni is overpersonalizing both this case and the judge in somewhat populist fashion. This particular case lends itself very easily to blaming the judge, thus relieving Berni from the responsibility of explaining what his ministry is doing about the many crimes which are also occurring without such lapses of judgement. Berni will not find many people to disagree with him when he takes judge Axel López to task — the benefit of the doubt should not be so lightly extended when the loss of human life may be the consequence and López does indeed seem to have been culpably permissive. But to focus blame on the judge rather than the system also risks arriving at an incomplete solution. López made a fatally bad call, yes, but in keeping with rules which he himself did not write and within the context of a huge judicial backlog (with many benches kept needlessly vacant for years) — his decision was also based on the reports of the penitentiary service which should share some responsibility.
While the judge’s conscience should not possibly be clear in this case, blaming the judiciary is not a very much more satisfactory basis for tackling crime than blaming the media — not to mention the question-marks revived over the police force after the resignation and arrest of the Santa Fe provincial police chief for suspected drug-trafficking links. After nearly two years the creation of a Security Ministry is insufficient recognition of the crime problem — far more seamless teamwork between the governments and police forces of all jurisdictions, the judiciary and the penitentiary service is demanded by society.