December 12, 2013
Shifts on crime leads to conflicts in K circles
Human rights advocates blast new BA province Security minister
Human rights activists yesterday continued to criticize the national government’s recent shift in security policies after Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli appointed controversial local leader Alejandro Granados for his newly created Security Ministry.
Meanwhile, top lawmaker candidate for the Victory Front (FpV) Martín Insaurralde — who last week suggested lowering the age of criminal responsibility — tried to tone down the controversy by claming that “nobody is saying that the kids have to go to jail.”
Insaurralde had proposed new legislation that would lower the age of criminal responsibility to 14 from the current 16.
Yesterday, after several human rights groups criticized these new proposed policies, the mayor of the Greater Buenos Aires district of Lomas de Zamora appeared on the weekly Sunday show hosted by television star Mirtha Legrand and emphasized he cared about children just as much the crime victims.
“The crime victim is just as helpless as the minor on the streets,” Insaurralde said. “I don‘t want to see them in the streets.”
‘Lack of ideas’
Journalist and Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) president Horacio Verbitsky published an article yesterday blasting Scioli’s appointment of Granados as the new provincial security chief.
Verbitsky highlighted several connections that tie Granados to human rights and security violations.
Verbitsky was hardly alone.
CELS Executive Director Gastón Chillier told the Herald that the recent changes in security should be understood as part of the ongoing electoral campaign.
After Renewal Front (FR) party leader Tigre Mayor Sergio Massa won the August 12 primaries by a large margin with a platform that was largely based on tough security credentials, the government began to reassess its campaign strategy.
The recent security policy measures therefore can be largely interpreted as an attempt to counter Massa’s tough-on-crime platform, Chillier said.
“This is just political demagoguery to make politicians seem tough on crime, but it really doesn‘t solve anything,” said Chillier.
If the government were really interested in reforming security policies it could pursue an integral reform of the prisons and police departments through a comprehensive security plan, he added.
“This demonstrates the lack of ideas and alternatives” in an issue that voters have long ranked at the top of their list of concerns, Chillier said. “Instead of dealing with the complex problems that underline the issue, politicians pursue a makeshift solution that simply sweeps the problem under the rug.”
Highlighting the divisions that have long existed in Kirchnerite circles around security matters, Chillier insisted that Scioli’s supposedly new tough-on-crime stance was really nothing new for the governor.
The Memory, Truth and Justice human rights organization representative Diana Kordon stated that her organizations is “very worried about the measures being taken by the national and provincial governments.”
Kordon’s organization had made strong accusations against the government two weeks ago, following the appointment of Alejandro Marambio as the new prison services chief — for alleged human rights violations that occurred to prisoners in his previous tenure as prisons chief.
Kordon had the same reservations for Granados appointment as head of the new provincial security ministry. “This is a man who has a very controversial record, who supports using weapons for personal defence,” Kordon said.
Regarding the proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility, she stressed it seemed to be a response that does not finally solve the problem.
“The youth are really the victims, they are being used by drug-traffickers to commit crimes,” Kordon said, adding it was “odd” that the Lomas de Zamara mayor had proposed this new legislation. “This is the first time that Insaurralde promotes this type of policy — he had never done this before.”
Kordon expressed concern over the changes the government has been implementing over the last few months, citing the appointment of César Milani as head of the Armed Forces as another example of this apparent shift.
“Even though he was accused of being involved in the last military dictatorship he’s still the head of the Army even if he hasn’t been officially promoted,” she said.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner postponed the Senate debate on Milani following controversy about his past.
The human rights organization representative went on to criticize the government for what she described as a dual discourse — “The paradox is that the government says it defends human rights but it does things that end up violating them many times.”
The Coordinator against Police and Institutional Repression CORREPI María del Carmen Verdú told the Herald that the government is merely proposing more of the same.
“This is not really a change,” she said. “The government is just showing its true colours now, which is the reason why they are losing support in the Greater Buenos Aires area.”
Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli defended the changes to his security portfolio over the weekend, claiming they were nothing but readjustments to adequately respond to “new criminal methods.”
Scioli avoided answering a question on whether he had met with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner before deciding to appoint Granados as the head of Security.
“Every governor makes his decisions based on his institutional responsibilities,” he said.
Finally, Scioli defended the Security Minister from criticisms made about past statements — after his house was robbed in 1999, Granados said: “I wish I had shot (the robber), too bad I had bad aim.”
The governor disregarded those statements, remarking that Granados had been “upset, after they had threatened his son.”
Herald staff with DyN, Télam
Diana Kordon - In an earlier version of this story Diana Kordon was referred to as Daniela Kordon.