September 21, 2014
Crime-fighting does not begin abroad
Crime is an extremely serious and complex problem affecting society as a whole (including this newsroom, as revealed by last Sunday’s article which showed 30 percent of our staff to have fallen victim in the last year — we do not live in a bubble). And all the more serious and complex if the police often insist on being part of the problem rather than the solution — in the past week the Córdoba provincial police helm has been hit by scandal for the second time in less than a year while in the notorious Buenos Aires provincial force several policemen including three senior officers were bounced for their involvement in a La Matanza gang specializing in car thefts and kidnaps. A complex problem indeed for which simplistic solutions are wholly inadequate.
Yet this is precisely what is being offered by the man effectively in charge of crime-fighting at a national level — Security Secretary Sergio Berni. Last Tuesday Berni not only singled out “foreign criminals” as scapegoats but sought to take this drive beyond merely verbal abuse by urging Congress to enact legislation making it easier for lawbreakers from abroad to be deported “forever.” It is true that recent crackdowns — including dirty war — on organized crime in countries like Colombia and Mexico have led at least some of its members to come to Argentina as a relatively better quality of life but Berni should see this as reason to increase the responsibilities on his shoulders, not unload them. Berni highlighted the arrest of 60 foreign nationals over the long weekend but he should be placing this figure in a much wider context — this is a drop in the ocean of well over a million immigrants from other South American countries in the last decade (with 774,000 applications for residence permits alone). Nor can it be argued that Argentina is an involuntary dumping-ground for other nations’ problems and deficiencies — not only is this influx the inevitable consequence of the regional integration actively sought by Mercosur and newer such groupings but in 2006 Néstor Kirchner introduced the Patria Grande programme to facilitate the immigration process for neighbours, entirely consistent with Kirchnerite rhetoric throughout the last decade.
Everybody wants effective crime-fighting but trying to pass off xenophobia and hostility to social protest as the defence of law and order is no progress towards that aim.