April 23, 2014
Friday, December 13, 2013

Rooting the looting

The police unrest over the last week leaving almost nationwide looting and eleven deaths in its wake is both brutally simple and extremely complex to explain — its causes are indeed multiple and yet no analysis should fall into the error of not seeing the forest for the trees, failing to realize that all roads lead to policing itself as the heart of the matter. In Wednesday’s editorial we tried to show that those who interpret the looting as a symptom of general social crisis with the police role almost incidental are missing the point, also taking issue with some of the fingers already being pointed at the political opposition. But now that such prestigious voices as Supreme Court Justice Eugenio Zaffaroni and 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel have spelled out the “destabilization” clearly hinted at by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in her Tuesday speech, perhaps the time has come to clarify a term so often used (and abused) in Kirchnerite discourse.

This month is not the only politically hot December in the recent past but undoubtedly the hottest of them all was in 2001 — the jury is still out over whether those violent days were the product of the general collapse of convertibility (with or without help from abroad) and the political fraud represented by the UCR-Frepaso alliance or far more specific political destabilization alelledly masterminded by Eduardo Duhalde (who was to emerge as caretaker president only three weeks later). The presence of a clearly uncomfortable then president Fernando de la Rúa at Tuesday’s anniversary — and also Duhalde’s absence with no serious justification — served as a reminder of those days while Sergio Massa’s recently victorious Renewal Front includes numerous Duhalde followers in its catchment area. All too easy, then, to tie up these loose ends and assert that Duhalde is at it again via Massa (as Justice Secretary Julián Alvarez virtually did on the slender evidence of a Renewal Front municipal councillor and ex-policeman muttering in favour of a police trade union). But this flatters the relevance of Duhalde in particular and the opposition in general — any such political destabilization was secondary and opportunistic if it existed at all (as it may have), not the root cause.

Instead those suspecting destabilization should look directly at the police themselves (as implied by Zaffaroni) — both for the political kind (resentment against a decade of usually progressive government, behind the often legitimate pay grievances) and the apolitical (collusion with the criminal classes in general and drug-trafficking in particular).

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