Entrevista a Alfredo Pucciarelli y Paula Canelo

"Cada vez que la protesta crece, reaparecen los intentos de militarizar la seguridad interior"

por Federico Poore











Los tiempos de la política argentina son tan veloces que a veces resulta difícil zambullirse en el zeitgeist de hace 14 años, cuando la teoría de los dos demonios hacía escuela, aún estaban vigentes las llamadas Leyes del Perdón y el ministro de Defensa era Ricardo López Murphy.
Los sociólogos Alfredo Pucciarelli y Ana Castellani recogen el guante en Los años de la Alianza, libro que analiza los vertiginosos acontecimientos de la etapa 1999-2001. Uno de sus principales capítulos, escrito por la investigadora Paula Canelo, estudia los vaivenes de las Fuerzas Armadas en el marco del gobierno de Fernando De la Rúa.
Pucciarelli y Canelo reciben a Viernes en un bar de Caballito y reconstruyen el rol indefinido de las fuerzas armadas y las tensiones con el área seguridad, un dilema que tiene puntos de contacto con el presente.

¿Cómo definirían la situación en las fuerzas armadas en aquel entonces?
Paula Canelo: La cuestión militar era una herencia pesada para el gobierno de la Alianza por tres motivos. Primero, por la reapertura en el frente de derechos humanos (que se había mantenido en estado de hibernación durante los primeros noventa), incluyendo la aparición de una organización como H.I.J.O.S. y la apertura de causas que pedían la extradición de militares argentinos en Italia y España. Luego está la reconfiguración internacional de las Fuerzas Armadas con la aparición de las llamadas nuevas amenazas, riesgos vinculados a fenómenos muy difusos como el narcotráfico, las guerrillas o los movimientos indigenistas. A pesar de que por ley tenían prohibida la intervención en seguridad interior, comienzan a ver en estas amenazas la posibilidad de darse un nuevo rol. En tercer lugar, la cuestión presupuestaria, con Menem profundizando la línea de reformas iniciada por Alfonsín ya que consideraba a las Fuerzas Armadas como parte del aparato estatal que había que achicar. Pero detrás de todos estos problemas hay un gran tema.

¿Cuál?
P.C.: La incapacidad de los gobiernos civiles post-dictadura para otorgarle a las fuerzas armadas un rol consistente en democracia, más allá de tenerlas apartadas de la seguridad interior. Y el gobierno de la Alianza no tiene políticas que puedan revertir esta situación porque el problema militar era un problema secundario frente a otros, como el problema económico o la pérdida del poder político.

¿Cuál era el perfil de Ricardo Brinzoni, a quien De la Rúa nombró jefe del Estado Mayor del Ejército?
P.C.: Tanto su nombramiento como el de Ricardo López Murphy en Defensa son señales claras. Se buscaba llevar tranquilidad.
Alfredo Pucciarelli: Parte de un pacto de no agresión.
P.C.: Recordemos que las fuerzas armadas venían de las autocríticas de (Martín) Balza y otros pronunciamientos sobre la necesidad de abrir una nueva etapa en la historia de las fuerzas. La designación de Brinzoni busca clausurar estos episodios de autocrítica. En cuanto a López Murphy, es un radical de larga data, con perfil técnico, tenía posgrados en el exterior... era lo que podríamos decir un ministro técnico.

Hay una paradoja con López Murphy. Estaba muy alineado con el discurso político de la “reconciliación”, pero económicamente era uno más de los ministros ajustadores. De hecho, es quien termina llevando el presupuesto de Defensa a mínimos históricos.
P.C.: En ese momento todos los militares estaban recluidos en su resistencia frente a nuevos achiques, salvo Brinzoni, que se dedicó a reunificar a la gran familia militar. Pero Brinzoni y López Murphy forman una dupla sólida al frente del binomio Defensa/Fuerzas Armadas. El ajuste se compensa con la promesa de no profundizar cuestiones vinculadas a los derechos humanos.

¿Qué sucede en marzo de 2001 cuando se declara la inconstitucionalidad de las leyes del perdón?
P.C.: Mirando las declaraciones de militares del período, la sensación es que están al borde del abismo, que la desintegración está a un paso. Aunque lo más interesante es ver no lo que hacen los militares en actividad (que tienen ciertas responsabilidades) sino los retirados, que en ese momento se agrupan en distintas asociaciones cívico-militares y que tienen más posibilidad de hablar. Además tienen sus propios medios de comunicación, como el diario La Nación, que les dio mucho espacio para hablar sobre cuestiones como las hipótesis de conflicto, la pérdida de autoridad del gobierno y el avance de la protesta social. Son los mismos militares que en los noventa habían sido opositores acérrimos de Balza. Y muchos de ellos, como (Reynaldo) Bignone, eran procesistas.

¿De dónde vienen los intentos de aquellos años por llevar las fuerzas armadas a nuevos roles en seguridad interior?
P.C.: Los límites entre estos bandos son muy difíciles de establecer. Por un lado están los partidarios de la militarización, que apoyan la intervención en la lucha contra el narcotráfico y el control de la protesta social, por el otro aquellos que (Marcelo) Saín llamó defensores del consenso básico en materia de seguridad. Pero los bandos se entrecruzan: en el primer grupo hay jefes de Estado Mayor, senadores, diputados, altos funcionarios... pero en el otro grupo también. El bando de los opositores a la militarización se activa sobre todo a nivel parlamentario (piden informes al Ministerio de Defensa sobre planes que especulan en torno a estas "nuevas amenazas"). Resulta interesante cruzar esta agenda con la de la protesta social, porque cada vez que la protesta crece, aparecen intentos institucionales de avanzar en la militarización de la seguridad interior. Es decir que avanzan juntos.
A.P.: Esta búsqueda de volcar hacia la derecha la agenda de seguridad termina neutralizada porque hay una situación de empate. Cada una de estas fuerzas tiene la capacidad de bloquear el desarrollo de los proyectos del oponente pero no la capacidad de imponer el suyo propio.

Después de López Murphy viene Horacio Jaunarena. ¿Qué cambia con él?
P.C.: Jaunarena es un ejemplo muy particular dentro de la historia de la defensa de los últimos cincuenta años. Nombrado por Alfonsín luego de la muerte de dos de sus ministros de defensa, por entonces era prácticamente desconocido, de hecho había ocupado una concejalía en Pergamino y nada más. Pero llega y se queda en un contexto que habría justificado la salida de 14 ministros. Toda la era carapintada Jaunarena la sobrevive y se transforma en uno de los funcionarios más importantes de Alfonsín. En la época delarruísta, es convocado por su pertenencia política a la parte más conservadora de la Unión Cívica Radical y por su experiencia en el área de defensa, una de las cualidades menos habituales en todos los ministros de defensa argentinos.

Con el recrudecimiento de las protestas a mediados de 2001 reaparecen dos áreas, una que habla de infiltrados y pide la presencia del Ejército y otra más dialoguista entre las que se destaca Juan Pablo Cafiero. ¿Cómo se dan estos cruces al interior del gobierno?
P.C.: Todas las agendas se vieron bloqueadas por este enfrentamiento permanente entre las dos almas del gobierno de De la Rúa: una muy vinculada a la represión de las protestas sociales, con (Juan Pablo) Baylac, Patricia Bullrich, y un ala más moderada que se va a ir retirando progresivamente. Pero me parece que la imagen de Juampi Cafiero yendo a dialogar a Salta (N.d.R.: en medio de los cortes de ruta en Mosconi) es más bien un manotazo de ahogado del gobierno de la Alianza. Pero también hay algo para aprovechar: la protesta se va institucionalizando, con lo cual aparecen interlocutores, actores con los que hablar. El problema en diciembre de 2001 es que desaparecen los interlocutores.
A.P.: Para entender este conflicto hay que analizar también el rol ambiguo del alfonsinismo. Alfonsín apoya la línea de oposición, pero cuando el conflicto crece reaparece el síndrome Illia, el fantasma de lo que (Ricardo) Balbín le hizo a (Arturo) Illia, y entonces retrocede. Los conflictos aparecen, crecen, y se congelan dentro de la Alianza pero se aíslan para mantener una mítica unidad alrededor de una coalición que ya no sirve más.

Para sorpresa de muchos, una vez que el gobierno colapsa los militares no actúan como partido militar ni produce un golpe. ¿Esto tiene que ver con la disgregación de las fuerzas?
P.C.: Recordemos que los militares ya habían pasado por un momento de crisis fundamental en el cual no intervinieron, que es 1989. Hay una postura muy decidida en los estados mayores de no intervención, dado que posibilidad de proyectar el futuro de las fuerzas implica la no intervención en conflictos políticos. Muchos podrán argumentar que las fuerzas armadas temían sanciones. De hecho, mucha de la literatura que ha intentado explicar el posicionamiento militar después del Juicio a las Juntas lo explica en ese sentido. Pero para mí no es solamente el miedo a la sanción sino también una política institucional muy clara: la de reconciliarse con la sociedad.
A.P.: Visto desde los años posteriores, está claro que en la región habían cambiado los modos de resolver los conflictos entre los distintos sectores sociales. Esto se instaló, más que por virtudes propias de las clases gobernantes, por el defecto de haber manejado indiscriminadamente la presión militar para resolver problemas sociales. Las clases altas o los sectores empresarios, que siempre habían apelado a este recurso, empezaron a diseñar un cambio de estrategia, lo que también terminó influyendo en el cambio de perspectiva de los propios militares.


LAS FUERZAS DESPUÉS DE GARRÉ
Es brutalmente honesta la frase de Eduardo Duhalde que abre el capítulo: "Nuestras Fuerzas Armadas existen, pero no sabemos para qué". ¿Se revierte esto a partir del nombramiento de Nilda Garré?
P.C.: Garré es la primera mujer que llega al cargo de ministro de Defensa en toda la historia argentina. Es a partir de su gestión donde se sientan las bases de aquello que los especialistas llaman una agenda de la defensa. Los gobiernos anteriores habían hecho reformas –muchas muy profundas, como cuando Alfonsín modificó su diseño orgánico– pero no había una mirada integral sobre las fuerzas. Y en este sentido, los intentos de "privación" sin el otorgamiento de un rol consistente no hizo más que agravar la situación. Hay que recordar que el gobierno de (Néstor) Kirchner comenzó con la gestión de (José) Pampuro, una persona de confianza de Duhalde, cuyo objetivo fue pilotear los malestares. Durante los primeros años se produjo un descabezamiento de las cúpulas, pero esta política inédita no fue acompañada por una política de defensa. Cuando llega Garré comienza una un proceso de autonomización de la agenda militar como problema de la agenda pública. (Arturo) Puricelli y (Agustín) Rossi han continuado esa línea.

¿Existe en la actualidad un intento de colocar a las Fuerzas Armadas más allá de lo que indica la Ley de Seguridad Interior? Sobre todo con el operativo Escudo Norte o el nuevo rol de Gendarmería.
P.C.: No. Rossi tiene una visión muy consistente acerca de que las Fuerzas Armadas no tienen nada que ver con lo que sucede en el ámbito de la seguridad interior. Hay, sí, una nueva mirada sobre la cuestión de la seguridad a partir de la creación del ministerio, que cristaliza una agenda con problemas. Lo que sí me parece ambiguo es el pase de Garré y Puricelli, que han salido de Defensa y pasado a Seguridad. Eso admite dos lecturas. Una es más promisoria, y es que en el país existen cuadros con capacidad técnica y política para manejar a las fuerzas del orden. Pero la otra sostiene que esta migración de funcionarios marca ciertas continuidades entre las dos áreas. Es precisamente esto lo que estamos viendo en estas semanas. En el futuro se verá si se ha superado esta unión o si todavía encontramos problemas para separar los actores y agendas de ambas áreas.
A.P..: Todavía existe una zona gris de intercambios e influencias, y el mejor ejemplo es el rol ambiguo de Gendarmería y de (Sergio) Berni.

Si uno mira a los ministros de Seguridad federales, de Garré a María Cecilia Rodríguez, da la impresión de que el gobierno tiene una política clara de seguridad. Pero en la práctica la figura de Berni termina siendo más fuerte. No sólo ha sobrevivido el último recambio ministerial sino que a los ojos de muchos es quien dirige el ministerio...
A.P..: Para mí el gobierno produce la salida de Garré para no avanzar demasiado en esa línea. Instalar un mojón pero no profundizar, una característica del kirchnerismo que le puede terminar costando muy caro porque abre un espacio de confrontación y después no construye una plataforma sólida para sostener el conflicto. Berni atenúa el modo en que Garré consideraba la relación entre estas dos fuerzas y la Policía Federal.
P.C.: La figura de Berni es un liderazgo político que se construye sobre su carisma y sus apariciones en los medios. Tiene llaves que abre muchas puertas. El tema es que él habla como lo haría el comandante de una fuerza: "vengo a conducir a mis hombres".
A.P.: Berni es una concepción pre-Garré.

Lo que uno se pregunta es por qué un gobierno que está a quince meses de irse no va más a fondo en determinadas reformas. Al menos para que a su sucesor le cueste más marcha atrás con estos cambios.
A.P.: La respuesta, creo yo, es que el gobierno tiene abierto demasiados frentes. La aparición de los fondos buitre le abre una batalla enorme, que desborda su capacidad política de enfrentar otras cuestiones. De hecho el gobierno presentó la Ley de Abastecimiento al mismo tiempo que la Ley de Pago Soberano. Al gobierno le han robado la capacidad de manejar los tiempos.

Una versión editada de esta entrevista se publicó en la edición impresa de Ámbito Financiero del 19 de septiembre de 2014.

City TV, radio advertising benefits allies

Following the pattern seen with newspapers, Clarín Group is the top recipient

by Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Herald, 07-05-2014

A media outlet from the Mendoza province linked to a former PRO candidate in Mendoza was the third-largest recipient of official advertising from Buenos Aires City in the first half of 2013, according to official figures.

Following up on yesterday’s Herald report on the way the City government has favoured certain media groups with its advertising largesse, a deeper analysis on ads placed on radio, TV stations and websites receiving public advertising by the PRO administration led by City Mayor Mauricio Macri reveal that Radio Mitre and La 100, both owned by media giant Clarín Group, topped the chart after receiving almost 1.5 million pesos during the first half of 2013.

Other popular conglomerates, including the Indalo Group led by casino mogul Cristóbal López and a group of radios owned by businessman Sergio Spolszki — Metro, Rock and Pop, FM Blue and Splendid — also benefited from the City government. The former received 1.27 million pesos in the first half of 2013, while the latter got 1.07 million pesos during the same period.

But the most surprising presence in the ranking was that of Mendoza’s MDZ FM 105.5, which ended up receiving a little over 992,000 pesos for its radio station in addition to 240,000 pesos for its Internet site — a total of 1,232,590 pesos, two and a half times more than the amount received by Los 40 Principales and Continental, the flagship radio stations of the popular Prisa Group.

“Despite the existence of a law regulating official advertising in the City — that included several articles, including the one forbidding the use of partisan colours for official communications, which were vetoed by Macri — there are no clear criteria yet by which public advertising is allocated, and it’s even less clear why some media outlets are excluded from those funds,” media expert Santiago Marino told the Herald.

“You may say that one criterion to allocate public advertising would be to do it in the most popular radios, such as Mitre and FM 100 (owned by the Clarín Group) and the radios belonging to the Indalo Group, such as FM Pop, Mega and Vale,” Marino added.

“What surprises me is that the third company in the list is a radio station and a web site from Mendoza, linked to the Terranova family, which has a member — rally driver Orlando Terranova — who used to be the best-known face of the PRO party in Mendoza.”

MDZ’s Internet site is run by journalist Christian Sanz, who regularly shows ties to intelligence and police sources.

One of the figures who most benefited from the City’s policy regarding ads was radio host Mario Pergolini, whose Radio Vorterix (linked, in turn, to Spolszki) was granted 1.14 million pesos during the first six months of last year, if funds received by its Internet site are also taken into account.

These figures cannot be annualized, as advertising soared during the second half of last year, when the PASO primaries were held.

TV outlets

As the Herald reported yesterday, the Clarín conglomerate was the biggest recipient of funds after receiving 17 percent of the total funds spent by the City in advertising during the first six months of 2013.

Clarín’s flagship broadcast TV station, Channel 13, received 10.57 million pesos if all affiliates throughout the country are taken into account — a little more than Telefe, owned by the Spanish group Telefónica.

The rest of the media outlets are far behind (América TV with 3.63 million pesos and Channel 9 with 2.09 million pesos), but the most shocking figure is the one granted to state-run Channel 7, also known as TV Pública, as it only received 12,000 pesos (some US$ 1,500) during that semester.

Years ago, in a landmark report for NGO Poder Ciudadano, media expert Martín Becerra had revealed the City had placed almost no advertising on Channel 9 and Channel 7, which regularly criticize Macri’s administration, following a pattern set by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration, who has long failed to allocate a reasonable amount of resources to Clarín-owned Channel 13 and Todo Noticias (TN).

Cable TV

A review of the available data suggests that much like the trends seen in print media, Buenos Aires City heavily favoured cable TV channels that fall under the control of the Clarín Group. City advertising received by the group’s nine channels more than doubled the second-largest recipient of public funds, with the flagship TN channel receiving 1.23 million of the group’s take of 3.56 million pesos.

The FOX group, a member of the Rupert Murdoch global multimedia conglomerate Newscorp, was the next-largest recipient of City funds, mostly by way of its various sports channels.

The Vila-Manzano group, second-largest in the country, received more than one million pesos in the first six months of 2013 by way of its various regional affiliates concentrated in the Cuyo region.

In March, the Herald published that the Macri administration had more than doubled its advertising budget during 2013, according to a report by the non-profit Argentine Association of Budget and Public Finance Administration (ASAP).

This staggering 110.8 percent yearly hike resulted from comparing the 548.4 million pesos the City government spent in advertising during 2013 to the 260.1 million from the previous year.

That same month, the national government published a report that indicated the Fernández de Kirchner administration had increased official advertising spending by 45 percent in the first six months of 2013, compared to a year earlier.

The report was released following a freedom of information request filed by a number of local NGOs.

Additional reporting by Tomás Brockenshire

Enlace

El Poder del Juego



El Poder del Juego
El gran negocio de la política argentina

Ramón Indart y Federico Poore
Aguilar, 2014, 256 pp.

Disponible en físico y en eBook

A closer look at crime in BA province

Thefts on the rise, but homicide figures can still be compared to those of 2009, says official report

by Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Herald, 27-04-2014

Three weeks after Governor Daniel Scioli declared the state of security emergency in Buenos Aires province, crime crashed back into the news following a number of violent robberies and a report saying that during 2013 murders in the district were up by 8.28 percent compared to a year before.

Crime in BA province has been somehow steady through the years, as last year’s 1,295 homicides were fairly similar to the 1,348 killings that took place in 2009, available figures from the provincial Prosecutor’s Office revealed.

However, lawyer Gustavo Arballo concluded this week that this means Buenos Aires province has a murder rate of 8.4 per 100,000 inhabitants — a figure 52 percent higher than the national average.

Numbers are not steady throughout the province: the province judicial districts of Zárate-Campana, the Greater Buenos Aires areas of Quilmes and La Matanza and the coastal city of Mar del Plata are “hot spots,” with homicide rates of over 10 per 100,000 people.

On the other hand, the judicial districts of Morón (that includes the western districts of Morón, Hurlingham, Ituzaingó and Merlo) and San Isidro (comprising the San Fernando, San Isidro, Pilar, Tigre and Vicente López municipalities) show better results.

Things are not that clear when it comes to measuring robberies: information from the local Prosecutor’s Office (which is subsumed to the Buenos Aires province Supreme Court) is based on Preliminary Criminal Investigations (IPP) — that is, actual reports made by the victims.

During 2013 a total 723,138 IPPs were recorded in the district, with only a fraction being robberies. Statistics also include kidnappings, scams, injuries and other damages.

But many people do not report these events due to their mistrust of the police and the judicial system, Walter Martello, the head of the Civic Coalition (CC) in Buenos Aires province, told the Herald.

According to Martello, only one in four criminal complaints were followed up with an official response — meaning that most cases lead nowhere but to dead ends.

Separating the wheat from the chaff

So what do available statistics reveal about this problem?

— The first is that even though homicides and robberies rose from 2012, last year’s results ended a downward trend in crime rates in the province that had begun in 2010, at least according to official figures.

— The second is that crimes involving underage offenders continue to represent a very small percentage of total crime, dismissing claims by centre-right lawmakers — even within the ruling Victory Front (FpV) — who during last year’s electoral campaign insisted on using this argument to lower the age of criminal responsibility, currently at 16 years.

Less than 14 percent of all murders committed in the province during 2013 were perpetrated by minors, the report published earlier this month said.

— A third conclusion is that most murders are not due to robberies. 36 percent are a result of street fights and other brawls, nine percent are domestic violence-related. Only 22 percent are crime-related (19 percent due to robberies), while causes of death of the remaining 16 percent are still undetermined.

Last november, Supreme Court Justice Eugenio Zaffaroni said murders in Greater Buenos Aires were “relatively low” and quoted figures from 2012 that said that “only” 788 murders were committed in the Greater Buenos Aires area where 9.91 million people live.

Comprehensive solutions

In this context, local political leaders called for a comprehensive approach to fighting crime that goes beyond the anti-crime policy package Scioli had signed by decree earlier this month.

“It has become evident that more cameras, more bulletproof vests and more police forces are not enough,” Martello said.

“I share Martello’s political view on security issues in the province,” Joaquín de la Torre, a Renewal Front lawmaker allied to Sergio Massa, tweeted this week.

Victory Front (FpV) lawmaker Guido Lorenzino, head of the Security Committee in the BA province legislature, did not deny the phenomenon but told the Herald statistics proved their stance on gun control, which included a much-criticized bill by the Scioli administration aimed at restricting the release of potential criminals found with a firearm who tried to elude police.

However, Arballo said current figures are unable to prove whether the bill — which was finally passed into law in June last year — has had any effect at all. Experts and opposition leaders claim the province does not provide enough information to help with comprehensive efforts against violence.

All sectors condemn lynching episodes

Former Security Minister Arslanian blames ‘promotion of fear’ as one of the main causes

by Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Herald, 31-03-2014



According to media reports, at least five people suspected of robbery were lynched by angry mobs last week. One of the alleged burglars was beaten to death in Rosario while the other was repeatedly kicked Saturday in the Buenos Aires City neighbourhood of Palermo, while four others were attacked in Rosario in bloody events that took place over the last few days.

Officials and local politicians condemned the phenomenon and called it a step back to the Middle Ages.

“I think it’s just barbaric. It takes us back to a past that we thought we had forgotten,” former Buenos Aires province Security Minister León Arslanian yesterday told Nacional Rock.

Arslanian, an offical who served during the 2002-2007 Felipe Solá provincial administration, linked the social phenomenon to the political climate of the last months — specifically, to the strategy carried out by Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa to attack the new Penal Code bill draft on the grounds that its amendments were too lenient on criminals.

“It’s a grotesque thing to try and stir up public opinion by promoting fear,” Arslanian told radio programme El Fin de la Metáfora.

Across the political spectrum

Kirchnerite representatives and opposition figures clearly drew a line between the current lack of state oversight and the rise of these kinds of attacks.

“We’re surely witnessing a situation of lack of state presence, but this can by no means justify nor excuse anyone taking justice into their own hands,” Broad Progressive Front (FAP) national lawmaker Fabián Peralta told the Herald.

Peralta, a representative of the centre-left GEN party, lives in the Azcuénaga neighbourhood in Rosario, two blocks away from the corner where a group of people lynched 18-year-old construction worker, David Moreyra, after accusing him of stealing.

Moreyra fought his injuries for four days and died at a local hospital.

“We’re witnessing a domino effect, because people are taking the discussion over whether the people attacked were criminals or not,” Peralta added.

“But the very fact that a group of people decide to apply the death penalty — because that’s what it is — speaks of a true process of social deterioration.”

PRO party ally Patricia Bullrich showed her consternation, but stressed an absence of the rule of law.

“I think (lynchings) are a worrying and dangerous phenomenon, because it proves we’re living in a society with no rules or law,” Bullrich told the Herald.

The Unión por Todos representative said repeated lynchings were a “typical reaction” to people’s feeling of defencelessness.

“We need to get the situation back on track, people should feel safe and protection should not be about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” the national lawmaker said.

Politicians to blame?

Like Arslanian, Kirchnerite City lawmaker Gabriela Cerruti took aim at the heated political climate encouraged by Renewal Front politicians, who during the last week challenged the Penal Code draft bill, which had resulted from a consensus between Supreme Court Justice Raúl Zaffaroni, UCR representative Ricardo Gil Lavedra and PRO lawmaker Federico Pinedo.

According to Cerruti, Massa’s stance against the proposed regulations and his “populist” statements against reduced penalties and other alleged benefits for criminals were “the serpent’s egg” that ended in last week’s public lynchings in Buenos Aires and Rosario.

Lynchings are occurring “at a time when leaders, who should be sending an altruistic message, have placed themselves on the frontline of heavy-handed discourse,” Cerruti wrote on Twitter.

But the events of the last few days are probably part of a broader phenomenon.

Victory Front (FpV) lawmaker Victoria Montenegro said there were “a lot of causes,” with only one of them being “the current political climate.” In the end, however, she limited herself to “openly repudiate all acts of violence.”

“The case of the boy that was beaten to death in Rosario was the result of cowardly and murderous citizens,” Montenegro told the Herald.

“Take justice into their own hands should not be an option and this is the society we’ve been trying to build since the return of democracy,” she concluded.

Revenge and class hatred

On Saturday afternoon, writer Diego Grillo Trubba went on a Twitter rampage to express what had occurred minutes prior in the up-scale Palermo neighbourhood.

An infuriated mob “almost lynched a pickpocket,” the man wrote on his account.

“A big man wearing a security guard’s uniform was on top of a 16- or 17-year-old and would not let him go. Suddenly, one of the people from the mob comes in running and kicked the kid in the face,” Grillo Trubba said.

“Just so that I’m understood: a river of blood was coming out of his mouth. Most of the people keep saying he should be put to death.”

It took 25 minutes for police to arrive at the scene, the writer said.

The Rosario cases also struck a nerve in Santa Fe’s political world.

“People who took part in lynch mob were actually involved in murder,” provincial Justice and Human Rights Minister Juan Lewis warned yesterday.

“It’s a big mistake to resort to the lack of state presence to justify lynching — it was plain and simple murder,” he said.

Judge: La Plata floods killed 89

Magistrate blasts Scioli, Casal for fudging the numbers, concealing death toll

by Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Herald, 27-03-2014


Almost a year after the heavy rains and flash floods that affected the city of La Plata, Judge Luís Arias yesterday determined that 89 people died during the flooding — 38 more than what the Buenos Aires province government had officially informed.

In a 191-page ruling of high political impact, the magistrate ordered the Daniel Scioli administration to “publicly reveal the result” of this new investigation “through the same media outlets the government used to reveal the information in the first place.”

After months of investigation, Arias concluded that several irregularities had taken place in the days after the flood of April 23, 2013 — and that both the local Executive and Judicial branches were to blame.

Irregularities include the signing of false death certificates by officials of the province’s Peoples’ Registry (Registro de las Personas), “which resulted in public documents that did not reflect the true nature of the event, or in showing it in a distorted way” — meaning that the goal of lying about the death certificates was to hide the true scale of the catastrophe.

“Evidence gathered so far in order to recreate the situation took a new dimension considering the context of falsehood, hiding, mistrust, confusion and catastrophe” following the floods in the province’s capital, the magistrate wrote.

The judge ordered both the local Legislature and the Executive Branch to “regulate, adapt and/or modify the proceedings and practices that allowed for such irregularities.”

According to judicial sources, Arias will explain the basis of the ruling to relatives of the victims today at 12.30pm during a press conference to be held at the journalism school at the University of La Plata.

An ‘uncomfortable’ judge

Days after the floods, both Scioli and the then-provincial Security Minister Ricardo Casal confirmed the death toll remained at 51, despite complaints by opposition leaders and victims’ relatives.

On April 6, Scioli dismissed other reports and called on people “not to distort a situation that is already dramatic.” That same day, Casal criticized Arias and Prosecutor Julián Axat for distributing a list with the names of seven other people who allegedly died during the storm.

But Arias did not take back what he said and announced that he would formally request hospitals in the affected areas to submit reports on what happened during the flood — the first step toward yesterday’s ruling.

“What Arias writes in his decision is what we’ve been saying all this time — that there was a deliberate attempt to hide the real numbers,” Civic Coalition (CC-ARI) representative Walter Martello told the Herald.

“The judge is saying that the province refused to add new names to the list of fatalities after the first 48 hours, something unprecedented and unknown in any other part of the world when a tragedy of this scale takes place,” Martello added.

On its face, the ruling coincides with Axat’s previous statements.

In November last year, the prosecutor said that there was strong evidence suggesting that a “spurious concealment method” had taken place with the Scioli administration’s attempt “to falsify the deaths caused by flooding” by making them appear to have been the result of natural causes.

Yesterday, Axat highlighted the magistrate’s decision, which — he said — proved the downside of a “self-governed” Buenos Aires provincial police force.

Local politicians “resort to the BA province police, which in turn engage in the usual tactics to prevent the public image of their bosses from becoming tarnished, at any cost,” the prosecutor wrote.

Court pushes for state transparency

Says government must release information on recipients of social programmes

by Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Herald, 27-03-2014



The Supreme Court yesterday ordered President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration to publicize information related to its social programmes, following a legal filing made by the Centre for the Implementation of Public Policies for the Equity and Development (CIPPEC), a non-partisan NGO.

The move is yet another take by the highest court on the state’s accountability and responsibility to make information public, and comes after a series of high-impact rulings over the distribution of government advertising in media outlets issued over the last few months.
Specifically, the Supreme Court ordered the national government to reveal the identity of those who benefit from social programmes, where they are located, and the total amount of money they involve.

Near the end of the 48-page ruling the top tribunal said that Congress “urgently needs to pass legislation guaranteeing access to information” and regulating the way public authorities allocate social development programmes.

“The Supreme Court has confirmed that the right to public information is a constitutional right, and that the Legislative Branch is still in debt regarding the implementation of a specific regulation on the matter,” CIPPEC’s chief judicial researcher Martín Bomer told the Herald.

A six-year wait

The case began in 2008, when CIPPEC demanded the Social Development Ministry release the registry of beneficiaries of social programmes for 2006 and 2007, arguing the organization needed to know the identity of those who received the social aid in order to carry out a comprehensive oversight of those programmes.

The ministry refused to provide the requested information by saying that making public such information would collide with the 25,326 Personal Data Protection Law by exposing the “vulnerable condition” of beneficiaries.

But the Supreme Court yesterday said that “the right to maximum disclosure of public information” should prevail over other rights in conflict and that the state was simply choosing to refuse to publicly release the information without a valid argument.

In this context, Justices Ricardo Lorenzetti, Carlos Fayt and Juan Carlos Maqueda said they believed the government is “seeking to exclude certain information from the public domain.” But the harshest words came from Enrique Petracchi and Carmen Argibay, who said that hiding those whom the govenrment was assisting was a “disgraceful” attitude by the government, who was trying to “conceal the diversion of public funds.”

Dismissing official arguments

The Association for Civil Rights (ADC), which co-sponsored CIPPEC’s legal filing, celebrated the ruling’s importance.

“It brings down the repeated argument used to deny access to public information: that the government may refuse to provide such information when it contains ‘sensitive data’,” ADC said in a news release.

ADC’s Access to Information Director Ramiro Álvarez Ugarte said the court’s ruling follows its own jurisprudence regarding the matter that was first expressed in December 2012, while dealing with a case the organization had brought against the PAMI state-run healthcare scheme.

Argentina, Cuba, Haiti and Costa Rica are the only four Latin American countries without a Public Information Access Law, according to Marcela Basterra, a constitutional scholar at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA).

In that context, Justices highlighted that the Supreme Court has “repeatedly pointed out” that the right to public information “is a necessary condition for the organization of a democratic republic” and that the Constitution as well as international treaties with constitutional hierarchy consider such a right “an essential tool in helping public opinion to establish whether social policies carried out by the state are effectively helping (those in need) or if they are dysfunctional to the proposed goals.”

Paraphrasing the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the top tribunal concluded that information belongs to the people: “It is not owned by the state, and its access is not a result of grace and favour from the government.”

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