March 11, 2014
New faces, new focus?
The appointment of María Cecilia Rodríguez as the new Security Minister seems directly linked to the choice of Father Juan Carlos Molina at the other end of the weekend to head the Sedronar agency against drug addiction and trafficking (thus filling a nine-month vacancy) — i.e. placing humane faces at the helm of crime-fighting and the war on drugs alike while leaving Security Secretary Sergio Berni as the hatchet man for both these key areas. Or could Berni end up being the next Guillermo Moreno — i.e. the front line against the two problems most damaging to the government’s cause in the last elections (crime in Berni’s case and inflation in Moreno’s) and ultimately paying the price for failure? While the latter outcome might be a useful counterbalance for a perceived drift to the right by the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration in the past year (intensified in some aspects since the electoral setback), the previous co-operation between Berni and Rodríguez suggests that he will remain very much in charge of the action — indeed he might well have been promoted directly had not an army lieutenant-colonel on leave as minister been too much for the government’s progressive wing (to which Rodríguez is linked).
Everything seems to point to Berni (assuming he stays) becoming increasingly specialized against the newly central problem of drug-trafficking while Molina concentrates on the treatment of addiction and Rodríguez covers other security areas with a more preventive approach. But the new minister’s place in the division of labour still remains to be clarified. She does not lack credentials — not only the links with Berni but also teaching at the Border Guard academy, quite apart from her more general antecedents in catastrophe work both at home and abroad (Kosovo, Haiti) but in line with the new military role in social emergencies since the La Plata floods in April — but they do not seem to point in any particular direction. While future policy remains to be seen, there can be no surprise about Puricelli’s exit. Moved to the Security Ministry as a consolation prize for losing the Defence Ministry over the seizure of the naval training frigate Libertad in Ghana, Puricelli seemed to confuse the two portfolios in his fight against crime — insofar as this politician of the old school fought crime at all because the first Santa Cruz governor (1983-7) at the return of democracy 30 Decembers ago moved at the pace of those times.
The new minister’s progressive links offer guarantees on human rights but at the same time Berni seems to have a green light — Rodríguez deserves the benefit of the doubt like all new officials. But doubt certainly does exist.