Security emergency declared in BA province
Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli yesterday declared “the state of security emergency” in the nation’s largest province for a year. The governor said he was sceptical of any immediate solution and took aim at the opposition.
“There is neither a law nor a decree to solve the problem. Who says so is lying to the rest of society,” Scioli said yesterday in the Buenos Aires province’s offices in this capital surrounded by his Cabinet, but not by his ultra-Kirchnerite Lieutenant-Governor Gabriel Mariotto.
Scioli yesterday said that he will be calling around 5,000 retired police officers to join the province’s force, a decision that raised some doubts among progressive sectors.
Human rights groups did not welcome the move. “This is a step backwards,” Paula Litvachky of the the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) told the Herald last night. “Scioli is insisting on policies that were proved wrong and is also giving great clout to the police,” former prosecutor Hugo Cañón, the head of the Buenos Aires Provincial Commission for Memory (CPM), told this newspaper yesterday.
“We cannot continue this meaningless fight among us while innocent people are dying,” the Buenos Aires province governor said. He called on all political forces to cooperate and not to confront.
At press time, none of the members of the national government had commented on Scioli’s announcement, a month after he met with Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich to discuss the presence of Border Guard troops in key areas of Buenos Aires province.
Scioli yesterday trumpeted one of the policies that was at the centre of last year’s electoral campaign: the possibility of discussing a new criminal system for juveniles, which was dismissed by several Kirchnerite lawmakers when Martín Insaurralde, the ruling Victory Front (FpV) candidate in the province, suggested reducing the age of criminal responsibility.
The provincial security council will be in state of permanent session, the governor confirmed yesterday.
Scioli urged mayors to support his initiative, saying that he had already called the Provincial Federation of Town Halls headed by Ituzaingó Mayor Alberto Descalzo, who will be in charge of getting the mayors to close ranks behind the governor. Several mayors have already left the Kirchnerite ranks and sided with Sergio Massa’s dissident Peronist Renewal Front.
Clearly looking ahead to the 2015 presidential elections, Scioli yesterday made reference to a “present state,” willing to solve crime, which is one of the issues that worries the province’s residents. Over the past few days, the “absence of the state” was singled out by several politicians as the reason for the wave of attempted lynchings that broke out nationwide. Massa and Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri, the leader of the centre-right opposition party PRO, said that the absence of an adequate state response to crime was the reason for the mob violence.
Following that line, Scioli also made reference to drug-trafficking, an issue that has been hitting the headlines for weeks. The governor said that 10 decentralized prosecutors’ units will be created and that a team will be carrying out financial intelligence to freeze assets linked to the illegal drug trade.
“We urge the judiciary to speed up proceedings against the heads of drug-trafficking,” Scioli said, echoing criticism of judges voiced by some Kirchnerites. Last year, when the Catholic Church expressed its concern about the drug situation in the country, Scioli was one of the first political leaders to express his agreement.
The governor said that around 5,000 retired officers from the police and the penitentiary service will be joining in the next months, so that more agents can be deployed on the streets.
The governor also stressed that by the end of the year about 10,000 agents will be graduating and and on duty. Though Scioli did not provide much information, he also made reference to the admission of 40,000 private security agents to patrol tasks.
“The situation cannot be solved with retired officers or members of private security agencies,” Paula Litvachky, the head of the CELS’ department of Justice and Security, yesterday told the Herald.
“Scioli talks about security as if we were in the middle of a war,” Cañón complained. “He is opening the door to a police occupation of the territory. This is going to be detrimental for liberties and it will allow a discretionary behaviour from state authorities,” the head of the CPM added.
Scioli also urged the provincial Legislature to pass the bill ordering the creation of municipal police forces, one of Massa’s pet issues during last year’s campaign.
“What was not mentioned was the need to clean up the police. Members of the forces are usually involved in serious crimes, such as drug-trafficking,” Cañón alleged.
Yesterday, Scioli made a step toward the creation of eight new detention units to remove inmates from police stations. He also promised to build four prisons for 2000 inmates. The governor also said that he will be sponsoring a bill to prevent the release on parole for those arrested with guns.
Alejandro Granados, the tough-talking Security minister appointed by Scioli after the defeat in the PASO primaries in Buenos Aires province last year, suggested that motorbikes should be ridden by people wearing helmets and waistcoats with the motorbike’s registration number printed on them.
“For Scioli, the scapegoat is a man from an impoverished neighbourhood riding a bike. That idea creates a dangerous situation as it allows more state violence and also justifies the mobs that launch violent attacks against these men from working sectors,” Cañón added.
Crime has always hit the Buenos Aires province and prompted a series of Cabinet reshuffles that did not solve the situation. Between 2000 and 2004, 14 security ministers were appointed. In 2004, then Buenos Aires governor Felipe Solá — currently a Renewal Front lawmaker— declared the emergency and asked the national government to send 14,000 federal agents. A new crisis broke out following the murder of Axel Blumberg, which also brought about several amendments in the Penal Code. A criminal reform is currently being discussed. A wave of violence also shook the country last week. In the province, a robbery at a bank in the city of Bernal allegedly increased the crisis.
“Nothing happened recently that could justify these measures. Scioli is only responding to a temporary situation with measures which are not going to have any impact,” Litvachky said.
“The governor is declaring the state of emergency to his own policies, which we have been criticizing for long,” the CELS expert added.
“For instance, he did not mention any attempt to turn the Buenos Aires province police into a professional force or to fight police involvement in crime,” Litvachky complained.
After launching a battery of announcements mainly focused on police, Scioli said that the problem can only be solved through social inclusion.
“Our challenge is to make the state act in advance and not afterwards,” the governor highlighted. Paraphrasing Pope Francis, the governor — who has already expressed his desire to run as a presidential candidate next year — argued: “Until exclusion is solved, violence will not be wiped out.”