Tuesday
September 23, 2014

Senator Rubén Giustiniani, Socialist Party

Sunday, April 6, 2014

'The country has one ruling party and two oppositions'

Rubén Giustiniani
By Tomás Brockenshire
Herald Staff

Name: Rubén Giustiniani
Born: Rosario, Santa Fe, 1955
Previous job: Lower House of Congress lawmaker
Favourite book: Several. I read a lot of Shakespeare, and the Russians, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Tolstoy. Victor Hugo as well. If pressed for a single title, Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy.
Newspaper: All of them, every day.

Meeting the Herald on a busy day after the marathon session in the Senate, when the US$5 billion compensation payment to Spain's Repsol for the 2012 YPF expropriation was approved after 12 hours of debate, Senator Rubén Giustiniani has only had a few hours of sleep. It doesn't show. The senator, one of the sponsors of a package of three bills to address drug trafficking, has also just been elected as vice-president of the Domestic Security and Drug Trafficking Committee in the Senate. He spoke at length to the Herald about narcotics, activity in the Senate, and the electoral hopes for the UNEN Progressive Front. On Tuesday, Giustiniani will receive an award for most hardworking senator in 2013 from the specialized media outlet Semanario Parlamentario after a vote by fellow lawmakers, their advisers, and parliamentary journalists.

What is your diagnosis of drug trafficking in Argentina?

Argentina has evolved in the last few years from a transit country to a country where narcotics are consumed, and to a country where there is a political debate about the diagnosis of the production of narcotics.

How should the executive and legal branches at the national and provincial levels cooperate to act against drug trafficking?

Drug trafficking is clearly a complex crime, which makes it an exclusively federal matter. For us it must be handled by all three branches of the State.

How would you evaluate that cooperation thus far?

Incipient.

What have been the problems to establishing cooperation?

When we see that even within the government there are debates about whether the country is a drug producer or not, differences between one minister and another... we need to first find a common and accurate diagnosis about what is happening in the country and that is the first step to design a strategy going forward.

Following the drive-by shooting of Santa Fe Governor Antonio Bonfatti's home has there been an effort to depoliticize the fight against trafficking?

All the political parties expressed a great deal of solidarity with the governor when this serious situation happened, which also illustrated a high degree of impunity.

In your opinion, how is the blame for the growth of drug trafficking shared between the national and provincial governments?

There is a responsibility to be shared between the legal, legislative and executive branches. So we need to find a starting point to address the problem responsibly instead of looking at who hasn't done what.

In one of the three bills you are putting forward to help in the fight against drug trafficking, there seems to be a strong focus on rolling back the 2005 law that allowed provinces to handle prosecution of small-time peddlers. Buenos Aires province took that option and Santa Fe did not, yet they both have drug problems...

It has been shown that the law, from 2005 to now, was negative and all the blocs agree on that. To separate street drug sales from drug trafficking splits up a network that should be left untouched to aid law enforcement investigations. We need to return to a system where peddlers on the streets are used to reach the drug lords. On the other hand, why do Santa Fe and Córdoba see drug trafficking of a different nature from the province of Buenos Aires? In Buenos Aires province there are more drug labs than anywhere else in the country. In each city there is a different kind of narcotics phenomenon. Rosario has a port and national highways that connect it to the northern border, from where the drugs presumably come from.

One of the bills seeks to make it easier to seize the proceeds of drug trafficking so they can later be used by the state to fund anti-addiction programmes, for example. This focus is clearly not punitive, it doesn't seek to incarcerate, but instead to take apart the economic structure of the criminal groups...

Which is the crux of the problem.

...and in countries such as Mexico and Colombia criminal groups have infiltrated the state partially because of their economic power. Do you see that happening here?

No, the realities are very different in each country. Argentina is very different. Latin America has a common problem, which is the violence and crime that affects citizens, but drug trafficking manifests itself differently in each country.

Are you optimistic then?

It's not a matter of being optimistic or pessimistic. It's a matter of getting to work, with an objective, political will and being ready to analyze the results.

What would you consider positive results?

Before you mentioned that there are countries where drug lords compete for power with the state. Positive results would be to limit the growth of organized crime.

What's your conclusion of the vote on the Repsol compensation payment?

It showed clear political divisions. There is one ruling party and two oppositions: Federal Peronism with PRO and another Broad Progressive Front (FAP)–UNEN–Radical Party (UCR). That's how the political scenario is split as we look toward 2015.

Speaking of the consultations between the Radical Party and the Broad Progressive Front and UNEN, what are your expectations for the alliance?

To govern, to be an alternative for 2015.

Presidential candidates have already started to appear within the front. The PASO primaries will play a definitive role, but they are still far away. How will the front handle the natural political divergences until then?

The first thing is the joint introduction on April 22 of a basic agenda that will put forward an alternative. Secondly, the agreement that the candidacies will be settled in the PASO primaries, and third, joint work in 2015 in the legislative branch. That's already in effect, with the vote that we saw last night in the Senate. Meanwhile, each candidate will make an effort to position themselves.

Does last night's vote indicate that the alliance will continue to vote as a bloc in the future?

That would appear to be the case.

Do you think a split is possible in the ruling Victory Front (FpV)?

Not in the short term. You saw the vote last night (referring to the 42 votes in favour of the Repsol compensation obtained by the FpV and its allies).

What about the middle term?

That depends on the country's political reality. As we approach December 10, 2015, and the electoral cycle next year, we could start seeing some shifts. Not today.

And not at all in 2014?

It will depend on the political conditions, which are very volatile in Argentina. One week it looks to be one way, the next another. It will all depend on the positioning for the potential presidential races.

@tbrockenshire

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