September 23, 2014
Not a kinder, gentler country
Violence here might pale in comparison with Venezuela (with over 20 fatalities on both sides in almost a month of protests, which in turn seems almost minor when measured against a daily average of some 70 violent deaths) but why wait until those levels are reached? Not a day goes by without something to feed concern but the last few days seem to have delivered some especially pointed reminders. Thus soccer hooliganism is a constant problem but the prelude to Monday’s match between two relegation-threatened sides, Quilmes and All Boys, was especially ugly — 10 people injured as a result of infighting between rival hooligan gangs among the Quilmes fans (with seven ending up in hospital) while only three arrests did not seem to match the scale of the violence. Again, union goonery is a fact of Argentine life but yesterday’s infighting in this sector had even deadlier consequences than around the soccer stadium — a clash between workers belonging to UOCRA construction workers union at a building site ended in gunfire and a fatal wound to the chest. Last but not least, International Women’s Day last Saturday prompted revived reporting of cases of gender violence, which in reality is a problem, day in, day out.
If a “zero tolerance” approach is often recommended against crime, why not apply it to violent behaviour in general? When applied to crime, the “zero tolerance” theory argues that societies which can grow accustomed to, say, vandals breaking windows gradually inoculate themselves into accepting the most extreme crimes. A variant of this theory applied to drug use argues that soft drugs inevitably lead to hard and should thus never be legalized — however debatable this theory might be, there can be no doubt that drug-related violence is at the forefront of public concern in Argentina, far more than any of the areas mentioned in the previous paragraph. Rosario notoriously has suffered almost a death a day this year while the quality of life in cities like Mendoza, Salta, Córdoba, Corrientes and San Juan as well as some zones of Greater Buenos Aires is seriously affected. Nor is it any consolation to argue that even when the violence reaches the levels of Mexico with over 40,000 slain, some 85 percent of the deaths are the drug-traffickers themselves (the infighting factor yet again) — the collateral damage is bad enough.
If recidivism has become a central issue within the Penal Code reform debate, why not start talking about gratuitous violence (as in yesterday’s hold-up of soccer-player Jonathan Fabbro’s family) as grounds for stiffer sentences?