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October 31, 2014
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What does CFK think of Berni?

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would do well to clarify her stance on crimefighting in general but in a month when she will be reaching out to the rest of the world for support against the vulture funds, she especially needs to correct the xenophobic undertones (or even overtones) creeping into the discourse of the administration’s main law and order hawk, Security Secretary Sergio Berni. The latter is not wholly insensitive to the negative image triggered a fortnight ago when he not only singled out “foreign criminals” as scapegoats for the current crime wave but also urged legislation to ensure their accelerated and permanent deportation but in his efforts to rectify himself, he only seems to take one foot out of his mouth in order to put the other in. Citing Security Ministry figures that the percentage of crimes attributed to foreigners is approximately four times their share of the population, Berni says that he can only follow police criteria but he is thus allowing the tail to wag the dog — the task of his ministry is to enlighten those criteria, not blindly mirror police prejudices. Berni pins around a fifth of all crimes on foreigners but this does not match their share of the prison population (around six percent) and even if true, would place far less than one percent of all immigrants under suspicion. Instead of tying himself up into new knots, Berni (and CFK) needs to spell out that the objective is to convict the real criminals of all national (and social) origins.

Much as Berni might like to imagine that he monopolizes the fight against crime, he is not alone — thus Renewal Front leader Sergio Massi (among other leading oppostion politicians) has expressed his support for his ideas on deporting foreign criminals, indicating that legislation to reform the immigration laws in this direction can count on his caucus. Nor would a politician like Massa speak out in this fashion if he was not confident of public support — opinion polls show that as many as 30 percent of Argentines subscribe to this view of blaming crime on undesirable aliens. In thus competing for the least common denominator in public opinion, Berni and Massi alike seem oblivious to the fact that their cavalier interpretation of the law clashes with both the Constitution and existing legislation.

A government which prides itself on its defence of human rights and which gives such priority to regional integration (especially in these times of default) really needs to spell out a more enlightened attitude toward the foreign immigrants in our midst, instead of allowing Berni to do all the talking.

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