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Calls for military service by BA province official show politicians in the dark

Security Minister Alejandro Granados speaks at a public forum earlier this month.

Provincial Security minister seems to exemplify lack of ideas in dealing with rising crime

Buenos Aires province Security Minister Alejandro Granados yesterday gave authority to an ongoing debate over mandatory military service — which was abolished in 1994 following the brutal murder of a conscript — by expressing his support to carry out a referendum on the issue.

“It would be important to carry out a referendum — it is always good to know what most people think,” the official told Radio América yesterday morning. “We should analyze the utility (of such a programme). If armed forces begin to be used for domestic security, that would be great.”

His comments were sparked by a proposal made by provincial senator and former mayor of the Greater Buenos Aires district of José C. Paz, Mario Ishii, who on Monday had called for the return of mandatory military service for those who neither study nor work as a way to contain youth violence.

Hours after the remarks made by Ishii — who has recently announced he would run for Buenos Aires province governor in 2015 — a number of Kirchnerite leaders including Defence Minister Agustín Rossi and La Cámpora youth organization head Andrés “Cuervo” Larroque strongly criticized the idea.

Yesterday, the Buenos Aires province administration led by Daniel Scioli tried to distance itself from the proposal.

“He’s speaking for himself,” provincial senator Alberto De Fazio told the Herald. Granados’ support of the controversial idea appeared to be the latest example of how all options are being floated.

De Fazio, a Scioli ally, said Granados’ words should not be read as the official stance of the provincial administration. The provincial lawmaker also distanced himself from the proposal.

“As a security measure I think it’s horrible — I mean, locking up poor, young men? It doesn’t seem like a solution to me,” De Fazio added.

However, the very fact that Granados — who was appointed less than a year ago by Scioli to take a tougher stance on crime — is giving this idea serious thought appears to demonstrate how Kirchnerism, as well as political leaders in general, are in the dark when it comes to security policies.

As the Herald reported on Sunday edition, Buenos Aires province has gone through a total of 21 Security ministers in Buenos Aires province during the last 20 years. Ideas supported by these officials ranged from progressive measures including massive police purges and civil leadership over security forces to punitive, tough-on-crime approaches that prize empowering the police.

Granados yesterday met with lawmakers and mayors who are allies of Renwal Front leader Sergio Massa.

A dangerous proposal

Mandatory military service was reduced and finally abolished in 1994, following the Carrasco case (see below).

However, a number of political leaders have raised the issue during the last few years, linking it to the need to “do something” about the youth who do not work nor study.

In 2010, the head of the Radical party (UCR) Ernesto Sanz called for the creation of a “Voluntary Civic Service,” mainly led by military leaders, which received preliminary approval by the Senate (as well as support from the then Senate head José Pampuro) but was never passed into law.

That bill — which was severely questioned by human rights organizations — aimed to develop “spaces of containment” for youngsters aged 14 to 24 who neither study nor work. If approved, the State would start teaching them “civil defence courses.”

However, the Lower House of Congress did not debate the bill on the floor and the project was finally discarded.

Yesterday, Roberto Basualdo, a national senator from San Juan province, said the reinstatement of mandatory military service was “not a bad idea.”

“I think we need to find a balance, but we should be working for its return,” the dissident Peronist Senator told Radio La Plata 90.9.

Workers’ Leftist Front (FIT) lawmaker Nicolás Del Caño said the discourse calling for the return of the military service “is a way of stigmatizing youngsters, of saying they are all potential criminals.”

Nobel Peace Price Winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel also spoke up against the measure, saying the fact that many leaders are discussing mandatory military service “is a huge setback for the country.”

Herald staff

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