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July 24, 2014
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Scioli takes hard line on police bill

Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli is seen alongside President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner at yesterday’s inauguration of a new lane of the General Paz Avenue.

Governor greenlights Granados’ draft after it faced sharp criticism from staunch Kirchnerites

After five ill-fated attempts to get the municipal police bill approved in the Buenos Aires province legislature, Governor Daniel Scioli yesterday signed a decree ordering Security Minister Alejandro Granados to create the security force.

The municipal police will likely be created along the same lines as had been originally proposed by the former Ezeiza mayor, which led to complaints from staunch Kirchnerites and human rights groups. Scioli formalized the decision yesterday afternoon after meeting with members of his Cabinet.

“This measure will seek to strengthen crime prevention at the local level, as well as help the decentralization of police operations,” the provincial administration expressed through a news release.

Granados’ resolution will be published today or tomorrow, a spokesman from the Security Ministry told the Herald.

“It will be similar to the original bill” written by national lawmaker Dulce Granados (wife of the Scioli official), a Scioli official told state-run news agency Télam.

The fine print of this police force to operate in all the province’s districts with a population of 70,000 or more “are yet to be disclosed,” the same source added. “But local leaders will lead the general operations of the municipal police.”

Yesterday’s move by Scioli includes the creation of the Local Security Superintendence, which, in turn, clears the way for establishing local police forces in the district’s main municipalities after a fierce legislative battle and despite protests by human rights organizations.

Caution

Local lawmakers of the Renewal Front (RF) party headed by Sergio Massa were yesterday cautious about the impact of Scioli’s decision, although Granados’ original bill — which gives greater discretion to local police forces and allows officers to carry firearms while off the job — seems to be more in line with their wishes.

Tigre Mayor Julio Zamora, who replaced Massa when the Renewal Front leader was elected national lawmaker, asked Scioli to “not follow the desires of La Cámpora youth organization and lawmaker (Marcelo) Saín” when writing the municipal police regulations.

Zamora said that Massa’s movement shared common ground with Granados, but that Scioli allies “got too much of a say and they were too open to suggestions” made by progressive Kirchnerites that went against the wishes of local leaders.

Earlier this year, the Herald confirmed Scioli’s lawmakers were in talks with security expert Saín and other centre-left Nuevo Encuentro party representatives to “improve” the bill presented by Granados. (Saín is the creator of the Airport Security Police, the only security force founded during the democratic era.)

Massa’s front made municipal police its hobby-horse during the campaign for last year’s midterm elections, but unlike most Kirchnerites wanted this “proximity police” to be able to impose harsh controls on the population. For instance, their idea was to allow local police forces to make arrests on background checks.

Money, money

One of the pending debates will be over the financing of this new local police force.

“We still don’t know what the funding mechanism will be,” a spokesman for Renewal Front representative Darío Giustozzi told the Herald.

Yesterday afternoon, Buenos Aires province Security officials hinted that funds for the municipal police will come from the provincial government.

But there was no official decision on the proposal last night, hours after the meeting Scioli held with his Cabinet Chief Alberto Pérez and Government Minister Cristina Álvarez Rodríguez.

Sources from the Renewal Front and the ruling Victory Front (FpV) confirmed there are different stances on the matter within the provincial administration.

Criticism

Also yesterday, opposition lawmaker Margarita Stolbizer took aim at Scioli’s decision.

“It’s a complete scandal that a governor unable to find a majority to support a law decides to pass it by decree,” Stolbizer said. She said the Broad Front-UNEN is analyzing taking legal action against the measure.

“I don’t like taking it to the courts, but maybe we don’t have a choice,” the GEN leader added.

Last week, Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel criticized the measure, claiming the municipal police bill does nothing to improve security.

“What guarantee do I have that the municipal police won’t echo the authoritarian control practices carried out by Buenos Aires province mayors?” Pérez Esquivel said in a news release.

The human rights activists mentioned the case of Buenos Aires City Metropolitan Police, “which received policemen who had been dismissed from other security forces,” and recalled that even President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner had acknowledged “the risks” of such a move.

“We don’t need to repeat mistakes from federal and provincial forces, but to carry out deep reforms in order to democratize” the whole system, Pérez Esquivel said.

Saín and former Security Minister León Arslanián were unavailable for comment.

Herald staff with Télam

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