September 1, 2014
On the beat
The prolonged legislative deadlock over the introduction of municipal police in Buenos Aires province prompting Governor Daniel Scioli to rule it into existence via gubernatorial resolution has generally been laid at the door of partisan gridlock in general and Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa in particular but while both these perceptions would be basically correct, they are also somewhat simplistic. The legislation was stillborn despite five different attempts to approve it because the Victory and Renewal Front caucuses failed to translate into reality the consensus they both professed but part of the problem also arose from several mayors of various political stripes being upset over the distribution of powers between town halls and the provincial Security Ministry. While all sides should share the blame, Massa is left looking particularly bad at several levels. Firstly, despite constantly preaching a political style of dialogue and consensus in contrast with the polarization under the current regime, he manifestly failed in applying these methods to his own pet project of the municipal police. And secondly, the substance of the initiative has undergone various U-turns, raising doubts as to Massa’s efficiency — born out of his desire to ride public concern over crime by adopting a tough law-and-order stance, the end result not even could reach an agreement with a provincial government that does not hesitate in go through this demagogic way.
Yet Massa’s ineptitude should not conceal a considerable amount of jockeying and infighting in Victory Front ranks. For a start, Scioli’s intervention looks very much like seeking protagonism with an eye to next year’s presidential elections rather than strictly necessary — while Scioli thus shows the political image of a firm hand at the helm, an executive resolution hardly helps the legitimacy of the new institution. But there have also been ideological differences between provincial Security Minister Alejandro Granados (a rightwing Peronist and Ezeiza mayor on leave who is also at odds with some of his mayoral colleagues) and the more progressive Lieutenant-Governor Gabriel Mariotto, as well as like-minded Kirchnerite allies such as the Nuevo Encuentro party and the La Cámpora youth grouping — the minister’s critics suspect him of seeking to model local policing along the lines of vigilante groups that sooner rather than later would turn into a cure worse than the original problem.
Security legislation is too sensitive in terms of human rights to be the product of anything other than democratic politics and total institutional legitimacy but when the elected politicians prove so dysfunctional, there is a problem.