December 9, 2013
Crime, Court, trains: a week to tremble
October midterms set agenda for the Kirchnerite administration
Last week was full of issues that resonated widely, marked by the debate on the national Budget, the denominated Law of Laws, which lawmakers approved with a scarce majority of 134 votes. Now it’s the Senate’s turn to definitively approve the bill, while everything slowly heats up ahead of the elections in October, which will define the true state of Argentine politics.
Indeed, everything seen until now has been mere triumphalist media show, because the primaries did not change anything, and neither is it certain that they signified the repeatedly mentioned “end of an era” for Kirchnerism.
Without doubt, the midterms will be an extraordinary challenge for the government, and the primaries were disappointing for the ruling party, but what was voted in August was the organization of lists and candidacies for the legislative elections, which have not taken place yet. Therefore, under no pretense of forecasts or omens, this column simply suggests waiting with prudence for the results that will be made public on October 28. Only then will we be truly able to discuss the “end of an era,” or not.
Another issue, much more serious from a certain perspective, was the stupid attack on San Ignacio de Loyola church in San Telmo by five young students from the Nacional de Buenos Aires School.
Regardless of the reasons behind the takeovers of Buenos Aires City schools to protest educational reforms that the BA City government seeks to impose, there is no justification for such barbaric actions, which, it must be said, were immediately condemned by the student union.
Aside from the idiotic phrases they painted, these unspeakable youths burned a pew and an armchair, in a demented act that could have ended with a fire and a tragedy. Gustavo Zorzoli, the school’s headmaster, affirmed that the five vandals “will be expelled,” which was ratified by University of Buenos Aires dean Rubén Hallú.
And that is what is expected: their identification and expulsion, not so much to set an example, but rather to avoid the terrible example that would be to “pardon” them, under any argument.
It’s clear that this action is no more than an extremely grave symptom of a certain collective state that prevails in Buenos Aires City, in which an uncontrollable hysteria around the issue of high crime is spread as propaganda. High crime is a concern that has managed to install itself as a list-topping concern in the country, although obviously it is not, not only because in most provinces there is no such hysteria, except for a few large cities, but because there are innumerable international examples with serious statistics that show the true state of crime in Argentina. High crime is a worrisome matter, of course, but remains far lower than statistic data on crime and/or murder per capita from around the world, and particularly Latin American societies, where terror and violence truly reign.
Here, however — and let this be said without denying cases, some of which are extremely grave and troubling — everything seems to be directed at assigning guilt and condemning the poorest, the youth and foreigners (in fact, Dr. Hermes Binner, in Rosario, recently pronounced discriminatory accusations). But neither the state nor society seem to understand that there is no security policy possible if the police system — all police forces — and other security forces are not revised and democratized. A priority should be the brittle Argentine penitentiary service, and in particular that of Buenos Aires province. It has been irrevocably proven that the majority of crimes and a large part of impunity stems from these institutions, which use prisoners, people from impoverished neighbourhoods and marginalized persons of all types to perpetrate crimes.
In that sense, the president made no mistake when she said that “there will be no improvement in dealing with crime without a better judiciary.” She is right, because the Argentine legal system is the service that must be democratized parallel to the reorganization of police forces and services linked to them. This is the great task that democracy must resolve.
That’s why the silly comedy we have seen of late does not cease to be reproachable: the government promotes six laws to democratize the Judicial branch, laws that were full of good intentions that may have been shared by society.
But the government did so trying to cut corners forcefully, arrogantly and with a crazy demeanour, without organizing public hearings or consulting interested parties and society. In that manner, it managed to pass the laws but also an immediate legal veto: the Supreme Court swiftly froze the six laws. So where is the comedy? In that now, and just before the elections, and when the issue of crime imposes itself in the campaign, the Supreme Court reinvigorates the issue and calls for the corporation of judges and prosecutors to put forth proposals to democratize the Judiciary. A perfectly Argentine absurdity.
And all the while, the delay from the Supreme Court in deciding on the full validity of the Broadcast Media Law is more than striking; now it is irritating, because the Court no longer has — both in terms of public and communications law — any path other than acceding to the full implementation of the law, whether it pleases or displeases whomever.
So much delay has become unjustifiable, and after four years and the latest televised rounds seen by the entire country, one thinks — one fears — that the seven justices could surrender before the corporate power. At least that is the opinion of this columnist today, of what will most likely happen. It would be yet another stain — severe and shameful — on the skin of the Argentine legal system.
And all the while, in China, Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo celebrated agreements to finally modernize and improve Argentine trains. With more than 50-year old rolling stock, and perhaps concentrating efforts only in the country’s capital, we will have to wait and see the results. They say hundreds of new carriages will be circulating by between 2014 and 2015. At least the replacement of tracks seems to have started. We will see.
But what is certain is that thereafter — and hopefully the authorities will not forget — a great campaign of passenger education will be needed. A campaign that in many aspects, let’s be frank, all of Argentine needs today.