September 17, 2014
An Obelisk on the watch
For The Herald
The emblematic symbol of Buenos Aires City, the Obelisk monument, has been turned into a 24-hour sentinel tower with four 360-degree closed circuit cameras installed in the top by the Metropolitan Police to watch the surroundings.
An injunction request was filed this week by sociologist Andrés Pérez Esquivel as part of the Corriente Unidad Sur political movement — a Project South dissident splinter group — in order to force City Hall to dismantle the surveillance apparatus following court orders.
Yesterday, judge Juan Pablo Mántaras from the City Administrative Litigation Court, was designated to rule on this matter.
“What I am trying to achieve is that City Hall ceases using the Obelisk monument as a surveillance and control tower by the Metropolitan Police, removing the dome-shaped cameras that had been installed permanently on the outer sides of its top, as representing an arbitrary intervention into a protected architectural work,” the plaintiff alleged in his injunction request.
Pérez Esquivel also accused the centre-right PRO party government of “taking advantage of its (the Obelisk’s) height” for surveillance purposes and labelled it as a “deculturation process of the monument in detriment of the principles it stands for and our historical memory”.
Talking to the Herald, Pérez Esquivel added that no resolution was published by local government to explain the reasons they had for choosing that specific spot for the cameras.
“Awareness-raising campaigns are usually displayed around the Obelisk because it is located in the core of a high-flow traffic hub. But they are temporary interventions, ordered by the Public Space portfolio. However, cameras are not short-term as Public Space had nothing to say about them. As a matter of fact, nobody else has taken responsibility for them”.
It is not the first time that 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel’s grandson has starred in a dispute against the Mauricio Macri administration’s use of closed-circuit cameras as part of its security scheme.
Currently, another injunction request filed by Pérez Esquivel who is demanding information about the exact place where almost 2,000 watching-devices were distributed throughout the City streets is still to receive a ruling from court.
According to BA City Law 2602, City Hall is obliged to inform the public about the co-ordinates where surveillance cameras are placed. But both the Security Ministry and its enforcement arm, the Metropolitan Police created by Mayor Macri, refused to reveal this information.
In the case of the Obelisk, Pérez Esquivel told the Herald that there is no exact information about the date when the cameras were activated but they were already working, at least, from November.
He included a Youtube web address as part of his evidence. The sequence of images, distributed by the Metropolitan Police itself as part of a successful arrest operation, shows how a robbery is uncovered and the criminal is identified and consequently caught by officers who were using images as evidence.