December 8, 2013
Santa Fe drug trauma
The headlines might give pride of place to the repeated threats against Santa Fe Governor Antonio Bonfatti since the warning shots fired at his home eight days ago but meanwhile people are dying in serious numbers— the death toll for the province (especially Rosario) for the first nine months of this year already exceeds all that of 2012. Not that drug-trafficking is limited only to Rosario — thus there were five deaths in Villa Lugano last week, the Córdoba provincial police’s drug squad chief was arrested last month and Salta is always in the news. Yet quite apart from the sheer scale of violence, the Rosario problem is hugely compounded by a denialism by Santa Fe’s Socialist provincial administration on a par with the national government’s attitude to inflation (with its leading light ex-governor Hermes Binner the worst offender here) — especially regarding the Santa Fe provincial police’s connivance in drug-trafficking. The Socialist administration’s efforts to acquit former provincial police chief Hugo Tognoli when detained last October, almost apologizing for his arrest, were already striking but now they are going out of their way to exclude the provincial police as possible suspects for the attack on Bonfatti. Even if drug-trafficking is a federal offence, this kind of attitude is the best possible news for narcos nationwide.
All this does not make any less absurd the La Cámpora Deputy Andrés “Cuervo” Larroque’s taunt of “narcosocialist” late last year — its frivolous opportunism is mirrored by how the capital of Argentine drug-trafficking magically shifted from Rosario to Tigre after Sergio Massa’s primary surge. Previous editorials have already described the disconcerting lurches from one extreme to the other in the crimefighting policies throughout three Kirchnerite terms. The government rightly criticizes the opposition as media-driven but they can hardly talk if they entrust crimefighting to the law and order hardliner Security Secretary Sergio Berni with his compulsion for invading television screens. Co-ordination between the two levels of government is poor — if Defence Minister Agustín Rossi (Santa Fe-born and a resident of Rosario) was immediately sent to express solidarity over this month’s attacks, Governor Bonfatti also read about the Tognoli arrest in the newspapers.
At this delicate point in the Argentine political cycle (with an eroded and compulsively error-prone government and an opposition spectrum geared to the agenda of the main opposition media group) the war on drugs is too important to be left to the politicians. The consequences of ignoring this fact could be irreversible.