March 12, 2014
More anti-social than social
Although the wave of police pay mutinies have more than one cause and various collateral effects (not least the precedent for other wage demands), it is important not to lose sight of the police forces themselves as the heart of the issue. Some pundits try to pass off the supermarket looting as originating in social crisis with the police inaction almost incidental — while it is true that the consequences of a police strike in, say, a Swiss town would probably have been less tragic, the passive (and perhaps even active) police role in all this is absolutely central here. The political blame game this week has been less between national and provincial governments than at national level, especially a bid to target the opposition. But the latter is almost totally irrelevant with its sins far more of omission than commission — Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo was much closer to the mark here in stressing the opposition’s “silence” than Justice Secretary Julián Alvarez with his conspiratorial talk centred against Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa (one of whose main strongholds, Almirante Brown, was in the forefront of the receiving-line). Indeed the real question for Massa and his mayoral allies would be this — are they still so keen on having their own municipal police forces after last week’s events?
Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich had a valid point when he suspected that there was no coincidence in this inexcusable police blackmail coming on the eve of yesterday’s anniversary marking three continuous decades of democracy but the comment should be directed at the police, not the opposition. At one level this is a wave of copycat police strikes nationwide in the wake of Córdoba Governor José Manuel de la Sota’s irresponsible capitulation last week — at another a long record of collusion between the police and the criminal classes (often the two main career choices for underprivileged and undereducated youth — and it shows). But the suspicions of an underlying hostility to democracy should prompt a much harder look at the police. It can be asked whether progressive governments have given enough attention to proper remuneration for an often risky job and whether they have made the same effort to judge police brutality today as the perpetrators of the “Dirty War”.
But with some 10 lives already lost in the last week, police action (and inaction) has already been disqualified — as with doctors and other essential public services, there can be no right to strike when human life is at stake.