Tag Archive | "police"

Argentina News Roundup: 7th April 2014

Governor Scioli and his cabinet declare a 'security emergency' (photo: Victoria Egurza/Télam/ef)

Governor Scioli and his cabinet declare a ‘security emergency’ (photo: Victoria Egurza/Télam/ef)

Scioli Declares Security Emergency in Buenos Aires: Governor Daniel Scioli declared on Saturday a ‘security state of emergency’ for 12 months in his province, with the aim of “applying the full weight of the state on criminals.” The measures to be applied to combat insecurity include the recall of up to 15,000 retired policemen who will be required to serve in the force for a year, and new requirements for motorcycle riders (such as the need to wear a helmet and reflective vest showing the vehicle’s licence number and the prohibition for two people to ride on a motorcycle at certain times and in certain areas). There will also be the construction of new prisons to hold up to 3,000 prisoners currently held in “relief police stations” awaiting trial, despite international regulations to the contrary. The Scioli administration has also pledged to introduce a bill in the provincial congress in order to limit the release of prisoners with a criminal record or those who used guns to commit a crime, and another one in the national congress to modify the current juvenile criminal regime.

The debate of a bill currently sitting in the provincial legislature which seeks to create local police forces in districts of over 70,000 residents will be accelerated and the government will create ten new specialised public prosecutors’ offices to handle drug trafficking offences. Finally, private security officers will be obliged to report any crime they witness whilst on duty (if they do not, their licences will be removed), and panic buttons will be included in mobile phones. The ‘state of emergency’ also gives the government the possibility to streamline certain processes and make purchases without having to call for public tenders. Scioli announced the purchase of 1,000 police cars, 30,000 bullet-proof vests, and 10,000 guns with ammunition for a total of $600m.

The governor received both support for the plan and criticism from the opposition. Frente Renovador’s Sergio Massa said that “we’re satisfied that the governor, being responsible for safety in the province, has recognised the severity of the situation (…) We’re ready to cooperate with our successful local experience, helping the provincial government find a solution.” PRO’s María Eugenia Vidal, the city of Buenos Aires’ deputy mayor, said that “it’s good that the provincial government is recognising the problem of insecurity. The measures are fine for the urgency, but we need a structural plan to solve the underlying issues.” Former deputy and president of GEN, Gerardo Milman, was critical of Scioli, saying that “the province doesn’t have an emergency, it has an unacceptable level of ineptitude and structural complicity. Governor Scioli’s state of emergency declaration is nothing more than a way to bypass controls and make purchases without public tenders.” The national government, in turn, kept its distance from Scioli and his announcements, with Chief of Cabinet Jorge Capitanich saying that “governor Scioli’s decision is part of his own agenda and taken within the use of his powers (…) He surely analysed the security issue and adopted the measures he considers appropriate.”

State of Emergency in Neuquén After Heavy Rains: A state of emergency has been declared in Neuquén after the province received 150mm of rain – the equivalent to a year’s rainfall – in just 12 hours. Schools across the province were closed today, and severe flooding in the provincial capital led to some 1,500 residents being evacuated from their homes. The worst-affected neighbourhoods in the north Patagonian city started the day under a metre of water, and although the flood waters are now starting to recede, much of the city remains without electricity. The storm is said to be the worst to have hit the city in 40 years, although residents were prepared after numerous warnings in local media and from the government to stay indoors. Heavy rainfall has wreaked havoc on various parts of the country. The first stage of the Desafío Ruta 40 rally, which was due to start today in the city of Bariloche, was cancelled due to the downpour, and Buenos Aires saw transit chaos after the Illia highway was closed due to the rains. The storms are set to continue throughout the rest of the day and into tomorrow.

Government Extends Price Agreements: Economy Minister Axel Kicillof and Domestic Trade Secretary Augusto Costa announced today that the ‘Precios Cuidados’ price agreement will be extended to include new items and new supermarkets. In large supermarkets, 108 products will be added to the existing agreement, bringing the number of items sold at an agreed price to 302. In smaller supermarkets the increase will be of 98 items. ‘Precios Cuidados’ will now include gluten-free products and will be extended to include wholesalers. Minister Kicillof, who called the programme “a success”, explained that “some prices within the agreement will increase ever so slightly and other products will enter the agreement at much lower prices.” The second phase of the programme will come into effect within the next seven to ten days.

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Argentina News Roundup: 20th February 2014

Human rights organisations joined civil society outside the Masacre de la Carcova trial in San Martín. (Photo: Gustavo Amarelle/Télam/lz)

Human rights organisations joined civil society outside the Masacre de la Carcova trial in San Martín. (Photo: Gustavo Amarelle/Télam/lz)

‘Masacre de La Carcova’ Trial Begins: The trial against Buenos Aires Province policemen Gustavo Rey and Gustavo Vega opened today in San Martín, Greater Buenos Aires. The pair are accused of having killed two teenagers who they believed were involved in the looting of a train than had derailed in La Carcova, José León Suárez in 2011. Franco Almirón and Mauricio Ramos, aged 16 and 17, were both killed in the incident on 3rd February 2011, and their friend Joaquín Romero, 19, was seriously injured. The police are also accused of covering up the killings. Investigations by the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) human rights organisation unveiled that on the day of the incident, the three friends were riding their bikes to look for cardboard in the nearby CEAMSE rubbish dump and had stopped to see what had happened as the train had derailed. When they tried to get close to the train, officers responded disproportionately by shooting at them. Romero was injured, and Almirón and Ramos took cover behind a pile of junk. But after a tear gas cannon was fired they were forced out of their cover, and were both shot fatally whilst attempting to flee the scene. CELS, whose investigation revealed the police cover-up, has called for a case to be opened into the officers’ disproportionate response to the lootings and also that more senior officials, likely to have given the orders to the policemen to use deadly force, also be charged. The trial is expected to last until 11th March.

Western Union Announces Changes to Ease Money Sending: The local subsidiary of Western Union has increased the amount of money it is possible to send to some countries from $1,150 per month to $4000 – or US$500 – per day. The countries included are the United States, Canada and the rest of Latin America. However, tighter restrictions remain for those wanting to send money to other continents, who are limited to $1,800 per day. Tourists and foreigners living temporarily in Argentina will not be able to use the new system, and are advised to go to the tax office AFIP to send or receive money. Argentines and permanent residents must take a photocopy of their CUIT or CUIL and a copy of their DNI. Those wishing to send money will have to pay 35% commission on the value of the money being sent, which would mean a cost of $10.90 per dollar, higher than the official exchange rate, which is hovering around $8, but lower than the ‘blue’, which is nearer $12.

Man Forced to Pay Damages for Leaving Pregnant Ex: The Supreme Court of Corrientes province has ruled that a man must pay damages to his former partner for the “moral damage” he inflicted after suddenly leaving her while she was pregnant. The ruling sets a new precedent in the province, although judges Guillermo Horacio Semhan, Fernando Augusto Niz and Juan Carlos Codello have yet to calculate the level of damages that will be awarded. In their decision, they highlighted that the woman “spent the entire pregnancy without the company or spiritual support of the progenitor”, and that the man had demonstrated “abandonment, denial of paternity, irresponsibility, and bad faith”. They highlighted that these were things suffered by the mother, and that their daughter was not the victim in this case.

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Argentina News Roundup: 10th February 2014

Seventeen people died in the crash, including the lorry driver (photo: Alfredo Ponce/Télam/ddc)

Seventeen people died in the crash, including the lorry driver (photo: Alfredo Ponce/Télam/ddc)

Mendoza Policemen Suspended Due to Negligence: Four police officers and five civilian employees were sanctioned after it was found they ignored calls to the emergency phone line, 911, which could have prevented a fatal road accident. On Friday 8th February, between 2.47 and 3.02pm, the emergency service received three calls alerting them to the erratic behaviour of a lorry driver, who was seen driving recklessly, allegedly drunk and against traffick on route 7, which runs between Mendoza and Córdoba. Later, between 5.34 and 5.44, five more calls were made to 911 indicating that the same person was driving against traffic. Only a minute later, at 5.45, the truck crashed against a bus, killing 17 people and injuring 14. “According to our register, he drove against traffic on the motorway for at least ten minutes,” said Juan Carlos Caleri, General Director of the Mendoza police. Caleri also informed that all the audio and video files which registered the lorry that day were sent to the prosecutor over the weekend, “to analyse the actions of the police officers in the hours before the tragedy.”

AFIP Denies Changes to Foreign Currency Purchases: In a statement released this morning, tax agency AFIP denied having made changes to the criteria used to allow purchases of foreign currencies, as reported by an article on La Nación. The purchase of foreign currency “works normally and without alterations,” says the statement, which also confirms that the conditions to allow for these purchases are set out by the Central Bank. The article published in today’s print edition of La Nación, under the headline ‘Without prior notice AFIP restricted the purchase of [US] dollars for savings‘, warned that “Without admitting it publicly, AFIP arbitrarily restricted in February the limits it applies to the purchase of [US] dollars, both for some self-employed workers and for employees, as La Nación confirmed through different savers.” Through their website www.dialogofiscal.gob.ar, AFIP informed that 330,575 operations of foreign currency purchases were registered between 27th January -when these transactions were authorised- and 7th February, for a total amount of US$176,977,706. Over 151,000 of these transactions were performed last week.

Irregularities in Iron Mountain Warehouse Revealed: Edgardo Castro, an inspector at the Buenos Aires Labour Sub-secretariat, revealed that, in 2008, he closed down the warehouse that burned down last week, killing nine firefighters. “I requested for that place to be closed down because basically it had deficiencies in its fire protection system. There was too much flammable material, the hoses didn’t work, there were no sprinklers, and there were obstacles in the hallways,” said Castro. Though his request was granted and the warehouse was closed down, he was later removed from the case. Speaking to news agency Télam, Castro also said that the neighbourhood of Barracas is “like a powder keg” due to the number of buildings that do not meet basic safety requirements: “If they don’t employ capable inspectors, these things will continue to happen, on a smaller or greater scale they will continue to happen, it’s a matter of time.”

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Argentina News Roundup: 7th February 2014

Flooding in the City of Buenos Aires (photo: María Candelaria Lagos/Télam/lz)

Flooding in the City of Buenos Aires (photo: María Candelaria Lagos/Télam/lz)

Hundreds of People Evacuated Due to Heavy Rain: At least 2,000 people had to be evacuated today as torrential rains hit the province of Buenos Aires. A woman died after being dragged by the water of a creek which had burst is banks in the Greater Buenos Aires district of Almirante Brown, where over 100 people were evacuated. A similar number of people had to be evacuated in Berisso, near La Plata, and around 60 in Luján due to flooding. The towns of San Nicolás, San Pedro, Arrecifes, and Ramallo are also amongst the worst affected, according to Infobae. In the capital, several neighbourhoods flooded, over 100 traffic lights stopped working, and subtes and trains suffered delays and service suspensions throughout the day. In the neighbourhood of Villa Lugano, a service station was struck by lightning, causing a small fire that was quickly put out by firefighters.

Consumers Boycott Supermarkets in Protest at Price Hikes: Groups of consumers today took part in a collective boycott of supermarkets and petrol stations in protest at recent price hikes. The movement, named ’7F Apagon al consumo’ (consumer ‘black out’), was shared by thousands on Twitter and Facebook since being created last weekend, though there are no reliable measures of how many people took part today. The president of the Union of Consumers in Argentina, Fernando Blanco Muiño, today supported the measure, saying it was “educational” for consumers. “It is important to make consumers aware of they power they have to unite under a single banner and form a social front against the abuses of economic powers,” Muiño told Télam.

In a separate measure, the director of the Federation of Chinese Supermarkets and Associations in Argentina, Miguel Angel Calvete, announced today that over 1,100 Chinese-owned supermarkets in Greater Buenos Aires and Rosario would boycott meat suppliers until next Tuesday to protest “excessive” price increases.

Policemen Prosecuted Over Drug Trafficking Links: Eight policemen and an informant were prosecuted in Córdoba yesterday due to alleged links with drug trafficking organisations. They have been accused of seizing drug shipments from drug trafficking groups and handing them over to rival gangs. Two of the officers involved are the former heads of the Anti-Drug Trafficking Division of the Córdoba police between 2009 and 2013. The on-going investigation into the relationship between policemen and drug traffickers has already caused a former security minister and police chief to resign.

Vice-President Boudou Submitted Statement Over Ciccone Case: Vice-President Amado Boudou appeared before a judge today over the Ciccone case. After prosecutor Jorge Di Lello requested Boudou be called in to declare yesterday, the vice-president decided to spontaneously appear before the judge and submit two statements detailing his position. In one of the statements, Boudou said that “the process of lifting Ciccone Calcográfica S.A.’s bankruptcy and the payment plan [awarded to it] was the product of a judicial decision, on one hand, and of the discretionary faculties of the head of [tax agency] AFIP.” According to his lawyer, Boudou “will face the court like any other citizen”, rather than requesting immunity due to his elected position. This morning, Chief of Cabinet Jorge Capitanich defended the vice-president and said he is being the victim of a “media lynching”.

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Argentina News Roundup: 16th January 2014

Sign outside FaSinPat, ex-Zanón, factory in Neuquén (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Sign outside FaSinPat, ex-Zanón factory in Neuquén (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Zanón Workers Given Title Deed: Thirteen years after the workers took control of the Zanón ceramics factory, members of the Neuquén cooperative have been given the factory’s title deed. The Zanón factory, which is an emblem of Argentina’s workers’ struggle after the 2001-2 economic crisis, was abandoned by its owners after it went bankrupt in 2001. The cooperative, now running under the name FaSinPat (‘Fábrica Sin Patrón’, or Factory Without Owner), employs 450 people who are collectively the recognised owners of the factory. Among other benefits, the title deed will allow the cooperative to access credits, enabling them to buy new machinery. Argentina currently has over 20,000 businesses functioning as cooperatives.

New Heatwave Leads to More Blackouts: Temperatures hit 35°C today and blackouts returned to the capital. Energy cuts were reported in Palermo, San Telmo, Caballito and Almagro, and a meter was said to have exploded in Belgrano. The blackout in Palermo interrupted the transmission of América and América 24 telelvision channels for more than half an hour, although Edenor has since said this particular blackout was a planned outage due to works being undertaken to improve the network. The temperature is set to soar again over the coming days, with highs of 39°C at the weekend, which could lead to more energy shortages.

Córdoba Police Arrested over Participation in December Protests: Córdoba’s public prosecutor, Raúl Garzón, today ordered the arrest of 16 police officers and one of their wives for alleged crimes committed during the December police strike, which led to looting around the province. The group will be charged with “disobeying authority and instigating criminal acts”. The group of officers refused to return to work after the police strike had ended, disobeying the orders of their superiors, and tried to get others to follow suit. They are also believed to have participated in the looting. Adriana Reate was also arrested because, along with a group of women, she had blocked the entrance of the Guardia de Infantería building during the early hours of 2nd December. Also today, Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich sent 1,000 gendarmes to the province at the request of governor José Manuel de la Sota, as part of a plan to maintain public order, after a small group had tried to initiate a new strike with similar claims to the protests in December.

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Latin America News Roundup: 8th January 2014

President Nicolás Maduro addresses the governors and mayors at the government house (Photo: AVN/Télam/dsl)

President Nicolás Maduro addresses the governors and mayors at the government house (Photo: AVN/Télam/dsl)

Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro called for the creation of a “model of democratic authority” in order to address the high levels of crime in the country. Maduro held a meeting today with Venezuela’s governors and mayors, as a response to the public outcry caused yesterday by the murder of a former Miss Venezuela and her husband. In the meeting, the president stated that the current model of “war against criminals” has failed, and that it must be replaced by a new model that is “integrally humane, that guarantees protection, but also brings peace and substitutes the anti-values of violence and disrespect towards life.” He proposed a number of measures, including the alignment of all the country’s police forces and a national plan to disarm criminals and integrate them into the labour market.

Chile: The country’s Supreme Court closed the investigation into the death of former President Salvador Allende, stating that there is no evidence supporting allegations that Allende was murdered. The case was brought before the Chilean justice in January 2011, when prosecutor Beatriz Pedrals challenged the theory that the former head of state had committed suicide. With regards to the alleged participation of military personnel in his death, the ruling considers that such personnel arrived at the scene after the suicide, and that no witnesses were able to confirm the theory of a confrontation between them and Allende.

Brazil: A video was released showing inmates from a prison in the Brazilian state of Maranhao playing with the heads of beheaded men from a rival gang. The video, filmed in December but released yesterday by personnel from the Pedrinhas prison, has reignited the debate over the state of the Brazilian penitentiary system. Pedrinhas is considered to be particularly violent, as a conflict between rival gangs left 62 people dead in less than a year and dozens of family members of inmates denounced being raped upon entering the prison. Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as the UN, have expressed their concern over the “terrible state” of Brazilian jails, and demanded “the immediate, unbiased, and effective investigation” of the violent incidents that took place in Pedrinhas.

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‘Abuela Narco’ Arrested in Quilmes Drug Raid

Paco in the hands of an addict (Photo: Kate Stanworth)

Paco in the hands of an addict (Photo: Kate Stanworth)

After a series of raids, police today disbanded a Quilmes drug ring, which had been based in Villa Eucaliptos and headed by an 82-year-old woman.

The woman, known as ‘Abuela Narco’ – ‘narco grandma’ – was the focus of a three-month long investigation before her arrest.

The woman was arrested in a house in Quilmes, where 2,000 doses of paco, a cheap by-product of cocaine rife in Buenos Aires’ shantytowns, were discovered. Three other women were also arrested, all aged between 30 and 40. In the same house, the police found marijuana, cash, and weapons, all containing traces of paco.

Marcelo Di Rosa, commissioner for the Illicit Drugs Division said: “The grandmother was an integral part of the organisation; she had the role of selling and guarding the drugs. She sold in her home.”

Use of paco has multiplied in the past decade, and it is estimated that around 400,000 doses of the drug are consumed in Argentina on a daily basis. According to Madres de la Lucha, an NGO made up of around 150 women whose children have been affected by the consumption of the drug, two people die each week as a result of negative side effects of the drug.

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Police Protests: Exposing the Debts of Democracy

In Argentina we have come to expect that, as the temperature raises, the social mood gets tense. With the memory of December 2001 fresh in our minds, as well as the more recent incidents at the Parque Indoamericano in 2010, some kind of social disorder always seems to be just around the corner in the run up to Christmas.

The incidents that gripped the country over the last couple of weeks, however, were of a different nature. They shone the light on a variety of pressing issues, all of which were reflected in the police strikes and the subsequent looting sprees that spread around the country.

The Narco-Police

The first protest to break out was in Córdoba, where around 3,000 police officers went on strike on Tuesday 3rd December, as governor José Manuel de la Sota was on a trip overseas. They demanded a 100% increase in their basic wage, claiming that a low income forced them to work overtime and shifts of up to 16 hours.

As the provincial Security Minister Alejandra Monteoliva (who was later removed from her post) was unable to control the situation and failed to request support from the federal government immediately, De la Sota was forced to return from his trip that same evening. At first, he expressed an uncompromising position and rejected the policemen’s demands, only to perform a U-turn within a few hours and give them all they were asking for, including a promise not to punish the striking officers.

While this was happening, groups of people on motorbikes took to the streets and looted several shops. In response, many residents in the affected areas set up barricades and attacked, sometimes indiscriminately, potential looters. One person died – the first of ten victims in the chaos that spread over the following days.

Governor José Manuel de la Sota renews cabinet and police authorities after the strikes (photo: Carlos Cermele/Télam/lz)

Governor José Manuel de la Sota renews cabinet and police authorities after the strikes (photo: Carlos Cermele/Télam/lz)

The way the provincial government handled the crisis has been strongly criticised. Unable to contain the lootings and to negotiate effectively with the police -other than simply giving in to their demands- seemed to cause a domino effect across the country, with police forces in as many as 15 provinces refusing to work until their wage demands were met.

The case of Córdoba, however, was different from other provinces (perhaps the closest comparison can be drawn with Santa Fé). The police force there was in turmoil before the protest, a fact that cannot be overlooked when analysing the situation.

The protest came less than three months after a journalistic investigation revealed extensive links between the police and drug trafficking operations in the province. The story became such a scandal that the journalist who ran it, Tomás Méndez, received death treats and the head of the police and the security minister were forced to resign. Many have speculated that there was a direct connection between the narco-scandal and the strikes and looting, either by claiming that the police needed to replace the potential revenue lost in the drug trade through a wage increase, or that they decided to pressure the government in order to halt the investigations.

The Córdoba police had also recently been the target of a 15,000-strong protest in the capital city, in which it was demanded that the provincial law against misdemeanours (law 8431) be overturned. This 1994 law, which allows the police to arrest and sentence people to fines or imprisonment for up to 180 days without trial -on grounds as feeble as “loitering” (defined as the display of a “suspicious attitude” near a building or vehicle)- has  allowed police to target and harass specific groups of people, most notably youngsters from poor areas. Tens of thousands of arrests have been made in the last few years under this law, and there have been numerous reports of mistreatment and even torture against prisoners.

A Political Issue

The case of Córdoba has received most of the attention in the last couple of weeks, due to the events surrounding the strike and the fact that it was the spark for nationwide turmoil.

However, it would be naïve to think that other cases are very different. As an institution, the police force in many provinces has proven to be one of the most perverse and corrupt. Left to its own devices and without a clear political authority, it has often done more to contribute to the spread of crime than to combat it.

Protesting police celebrate the agreement reached with the government in Córdoba (photo: Irma Montiel/Télam/ddc)

Protesting police celebrate the agreement reached with the government in Córdoba (photo: Irma Montiel/Télam/ddc)

Many saw evidence of this during the lootings in several provinces, where police were accused of being directly involved in the riots. In Entre Ríos, goods stolen during the strike were found in a police officer’s house, and Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich informed that similar cases were being investigated throughout the country. Residents of the worst affected areas who witnessed the lootings coincided in pointing out that they appeared to have been organised beforehand and were not spontaneous.

An overhaul of the police system is one of democracy’s major debts. Some attempts at reform have been made in the last few years, most notably in the province of Buenos Aires, whose infamous police force – ‘la maldita policía‘ –  has been the poster child for police corruption for decades, and within the Federal Police. However, those processes were either reversed or fell short of achieving the deep change that is needed.

So what should a police reform entail? In a recent interview with Página 12, León Arslanian, security minister of Buenos Aires province between 2004 and 2007, talked about “decentralisation” and “democratisation.” One key reform must consist of putting the police under the control of civilian authorities, replacing the current model of self-governance. In Arslanian’s opinion, the provincial governments have delegated the management of public security to the police forces, and “in exchange for governability, [the police] arrange with politicians the conditions to be able to freely manage and regulate crime.”

Other measures mentioned by Arslanian include removing internal affairs and the handling of police information from the direct control of the police, in order to be able to detect irregularities. It has been proposed that decentralisation could be achieved by creating smaller police forces dependent upon municipalities -rather than provinces- to deal with everyday crime.

A Police Union

Another issue that was placed under the spotlight during the police strikes, and which many consider should be part of the police reform agenda, is whether police should be able to form their own workers’ union.

Buenos Aires police officers protest in La Plata on 9th December (photo: Carlos Cermele/Télam/lz)

Buenos Aires police officers protest in La Plata on 9th December (photo: Carlos Cermele/Télam/lz)

Currently, policemen are not allowed to form unions or exercise other labour rights, such as the right to strike. There are two main reasons for this. The first  is the rigid, vertical hierarchy by which security forces are organised – union activity would break the strict discipline that is expected of the police. Secondly, as the recent strikes proved, a lack of police on the streets can have serious consequences for people’s lives and property.

But one thing the strikes also proved is the need for an institutional mechanism to channel police demands. The basic wages for police personnel before the strike were as low as $531 (in the province of Santa Fe), though they were complemented by ‘extras’ such as overtime and special payments for professional risk. Any other professional in that situation would have been expected to negotiate better salaries, and in the case of the police, a bargaining tool could be a way to avoid potentially dangerous situations such as strikes.

Those who agree with the need to set up police unions suggest it should come with a limit to the labour rights of police: namely, that they should still not be allowed to strike, as the safety of the community comes before their internal demands. Still, experts put forward the need for genuine representation, and bodies that can be party to negotiations regarding wages and working conditions, thus defending their rights as workers.

Conceding the police the right to unionise would also be a step forward towards the professionalisation of the force, another important element of the much needed police reform. This would also involve securing fair wages, reasonable shifts and working conditions, and strengthening education programmes with a focus on human rights.

Failed Coexistence

A police reform (or 25, if we include all provinces, the City of Buenos Aires, and the Federal Police) is a mammoth task, but one that must be done. It is an issue that has been identified and studied, and at the moment the hardest part seems to be finding the political will to counter the resistance that the entrenched powers are expected to put up.

On the other hand, the lootings have been much harder to process. Whilst some of them are known to have been organised by criminal gangs -sometimes in connivance with the striking police- others were not, causing shock and disbelief among the population. The terrified, and at times violent, reaction of the residents in the affected areas also exposed an ugly side to relations within communities.

A looted shop in the city of Córdoba (photo: Irma Montiel/Télam/ddc)

A looted shop in the city of Córdoba (photo: Irma Montiel/Télam/ddc)

An interesting reflection by political scientist María Esperanza Casullo points at a certain degree of disintegration of the fabric of society due to the disappearance of common, physical areas in which people from different classes and backgrounds coexist. The decline in public institutions such as the school or the hospital, and the confinement in closed communities by those who can afford it, are the result of a model of exclusion and consumerism which started being implemented as far back as 1976. Without these shared spaces and institutions, Casullo argues, there can be no political community, and the ‘other’ is always seen a threatening entity.

This was most evident in Córdoba, which again seems to be the case that best exemplifies the complexity of the issues revealed by the crisis. As anthropologist Pablo Semán explains, Córdoba has been torn apart by the property boom -itself brought on by the soy boom- which resulted in masses of people being pushed towards the edges of cities -and of society. They are segregated in poor neighbourhoods and constantly watched by police, there to contain the threat they supposedly pose against those who benefitted from the process. Semán’s analysis indicates that this gap between the rich and the poor goes beyond a socio-economic issue, and it is deeply rooted in an enduring racism.

This idea helps explain the extensive use (and misuse) of the provincial law against misdemeanours, the massive increase in police presence in the province (a 66% increase in the number of officers between 2001 and 2012, making it one of the provinces with the highest rates of police officers per capita), and the terror felt by those who suddenly felt unprotected by their ever-present guardians, left to fend for themselves against the ‘hordes’ that descended from the periphery.

As the country rightfully celebrated 30 years of uninterrupted democracy, reality took centre stage. The last three decades have brought about many positive changes, but have also deepened some long-standing social wounds. The events of the last couple of weeks appeared as a reminder that there is much work yet to be done.

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Former Officer Claims Jorge Julio López was Killed by Police



An ex-officer of the Federal Police, Claudio Correa, has come forward with new revelations over the disappearance of Jorge Julio López seven years ago. The officer approached the Buenos Aires Ministry of Security a month ago claiming a sub-commissioner and a lieutenant of the city police force participated in the kidnapping and killing of López.

The information became public on Saturday after Correa spoke to the news programme C5N, recounting information of López’s disappearance as allegedly relayed by first lieutenant Marcelo Soulé, a colleague of Correa’s for over 20 years within the police force.

Correa alleged that Soulé confessed to have participated in the kidnapping and death of López. He said that Soulé told him: “They took him from La Plata, they brought him to a house in Quilmes, they drugged him, put him in an ambulance of the Buenos Aires Penitentiary Service, and brought him to the camping ‘El Indio’ in Mar de Cobo.”

Correa stated that the sub-commissioner of Mar de Cobo, Adrian Mapelli, offered him $150,000 and a car as a bribe to not go to the authorities with the information. According to Correa, Mapelli also threatened him by saying: “You know that if I want to I can kill you right here with just a bullet in the chest.”

Correa alleges that after being beaten to death, López was buried in a patch of land that belonged to a member of Soulé’s family. He also accused the first lieutenant of asking him to help in removing the body.

When Correa presented the information to authorities in November, they ordered a series of excavations in the areas indicated, but so far police forces say they have found nothing.

Federal district prosecutor Rodolfo Marcelo Molina, however, has confirmed they are still looking into the accusations made by Correa.

Meanwhile, one of the men accused by Correa, Adrian Mapelli, has come forward to say he is ready to cooperate with the justice department if need be. He also stated: “I love democracy and human rights. I fight constantly against crime and no one will stop me from working in the way I have been doing so until now.”

Seven years ago, on 18 September 2006, the bricklayer López, then aged 76, was due to give evidence in a tribunal court of La Plata in the case against Miguel Etchecolatz.

Etchecolatz was the ex-director general of police investigations for Buenos Aires province during the military dictatorship and was being tried over his role in the deaths and disappearances during the violent years of 1976-1983. López, however, vanished without a trace on the same day he was due to give evidence.

In the last seven years, various individuals have come forward with what they claim to be the truth about what happened to the man but nothing has materialised into concrete evidence or led to key informantion.

In September of this year, on the seventh anniversary of his disappearance, protesters marched in Buenos Aires and La Plata demanding justice for López.

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (0)

Boca Fans Cause Violence and Vandalism in City Centre

Boca supporters in the city yesterday. (photo: Télam)

Boca supporters in the city yesterday. (photo: Télam)

At least 25 people were arrested yesterday in skirmishes between Boca Juniors supporters and police that caused widespread damage and disrupted transport in the Buenos Aires city centre. The incidents also left 17 people injured, including five policemen.

Thousands of Boca supporters, who call themselves ‘La 12′, descended on the obelisco to take part in annual celebrations held on the 12/12 yesterday. Many had chartered buses for the occasion.

The fans gathered at the obelisco around 5pm yesterday to celebrate, but things soon escalated into clashes with police outside the McDonald’s on Carlos Pellegrini and Corrientes. The incidents were reminiscent of last year’s 12/12/12 “celebrations” when people 35 were arrested and 11 policemen were injured.

Fans threw rocks and bottles at police who in response fired pepper spray and rubber bullets. There were also incidents of infighting between the fans.

The fans broke security cameras, threatened cameramen, and photographers. They also attacked Metrobus stops, though bus routes had already been altered to avoid the disruption. Theatres and restaurants in the surrounding blocks closed early.

Police and fans clashed again at around 9.30pm, causing more damage to nearby stores. The Federal Police estimated that there were about 20,000 supporters at the busiest time.

One fan told Clarin newspaper: “This is not official from Boca, it is the responsibility of those who organised it. Fans are free to celebrate where and how they like. But the club was not involved in the organisation.”

The president of Boca Juniors Football Club, Daniel Angelici, told radio La Red that it was “a sad day” for Boca supporters. “This is the second year of these incidents. We will take measures to ensure that this does not happen again,” he said. “We have a lot of passion and that’s why we get into football. But this is not Boca.”

A Boca fan was also killed after returning from the city centre gathering, shot near the Lanús train station in the south of Greater Buenos Aires around 1am today.

Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich in his daily press conference said it is “very difficult” to prevent these incidents and complained about the absence of the Metropolitian police in the city yesterday.

“It’s the only area shared by the Federal Police and the Metropolitan. In this case only the Federal intervened. We had to act because of the absence of other forces,” he said.

Posted in Current Affairs, News From Argentina, News Round Ups, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (1)

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Five years on from the death of ex president Raúl Alfonsín, we look back at those emotional days in 2009 and reflect on the legacy left by 'the father of democracy'

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