November 21, 2017

Interview to sociologist Paula Canelo

Sunday, January 26, 2014

‘Armed forces need a new democratic role’

By Luciana Bertoia
Herald Staff
The possibility of involving the Armed Forces in the struggle against drug-trafficking was suggested a few days ago by Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli and was backed by Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, although since the return of democracy in 1983 there has been a strong consensus to keep them away from domestic affairs. Sociologist and National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) researcher Paula Canelo is one of the top experts on military issues and she talked to the Herald about the current debate.

Isn’t the proposal to involve the Armed Forces in the struggle against drug-trafficking against a democratic consensus that kept them away from domestic affairs ?

That is a consensus reached with great effort, a struggle linked to the role which the Armed Forces are expected to play during democracy. There are two sides to this topic: those who believe that the Armed Forces should not be involved in domestic affairs due to the serious risks this could imply and those who believe, with the risk of facing a similar scenario to Mexico, that the Armed Forces should take part in internal affairs. This struggle has taken place since the return of democracy in 1983. After the dictatorship, political leaders started thinking about the role of the forces, that’s why they passed framework legislation to regulate the role of the military: the National Defence Law (1988), the Domestic Security Law (1991) and the National Intelligence Law (2001). In 2006, Kirchnerism regulated the National Defence Law. All these laws prevent the military from taking part in domestic security affairs.

How could you explain the reaction created by Scioli’s suggestion?

Scioli generated a heated controversy. Curiously enough, the participants on both sides repeat themselves. For instance, Margarita Stolbizer has always been against the Armed Forces involved in domestic affairs. Macri, who agreed with Scioli, approached the Armed Forces during the 2001 crisis.

Why do you call it a “consensus reached with great effort”?

After democracy’s return, it took five years to pass the National Defence Law. Actually, the law was approved after the Carapintada military uprising because there was a debate whether these threats should be quelled by the Armed Forces themselves. For instance, the 1989 attack launched against the Infantry Regiment garrisoned in La Tablada (Buenos Aires province) was used as the perfect excuse for those who insisted that the Armed Forces should be involved in domestic security issues.

In this discussion, what was right-wing Peronism’s position?

What we can define as right-wing Peronism, in general, supported the idea of involving the Armed Forces in domestic security. Who historically supported less the idea, if you take into account the Congressional debates in 1980s, were the Radical Party leaders. However, during Fernando de la Rúa’s term in office — with Horacio Jaunarena and Ricardo López Murphy in the Defence Ministry — the party was in favour of militarization, though there were some exceptions.

Why did Peronism support this possibility?

Traditionally, in this area, Peronism appeals to the idea of an “organized community,” with all the national forces taking part in security issues. That does mean that Scioli is a right-wing Peronist.

What do you think of the government’s position?

We should applaud Agustín Rossi because he is one of the few defence ministers who expressed his support for this separation. In general, when a Defence minister keeps silent, he lets the heads of the Armed Forces speak and, in general, Defence ministers face double pressure from the Presidency and from the Armed Forces.

In fact, Nilda Garré and Rossi brought back politics to the ministry...

Well, there has rarely been seen policy co-ordination like this one. This change became visible in 2005 when Garré was appointed, it was timidly supported by Arturo Puricelli and now it seems revitalized by Rossi.

Is it possible to say that Kirchnerism is trying to change the paradigm by incorporating the Armed Forces into an industrialization process?

They are consistently attempting to sponsor industrialization. For instance, they brought the Fabricaciones Militares munitions plant back into the Ministry. But we should wait to see what happens. The important thing has been adjusting the military policy to the human rights one. In order to re-address the Armed Forces, they should be given a different role from the one they had in the past. Compensation is needed, balancing that new role and letting justice move forward.

César Milani’s appointment as Army chief-of-staff can prove that...

That’s a complicated issue. There is a strong determination to preserve the Army commander, in spite of resigning to some things. On the other hand, the evidence against Milani is not clear enough.

Months ago, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner removed responsibility from the Armed Forces in the repression unleashed by the last dictatorship, highlighting that only individuals committed crimes, which is against some ideas shared by progressive sectors.

I don’t particularly remember that speech but if that narrative was being constructed, that explanation would be similar to the one given by Alfonsín, who pursued an exemplary punishment against some particular men, mostly, in order to break up a joint reaction. That’s a symbolical construction to avoid a corporate resistance and that’s one of the ways the political power has found since 1983 to air in court state terrorism.


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