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.”


Gov’t advertising increases 45.24%

Uneven distribution seen between TV channels and newspapers, official report reveals

by Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Herald, 18-03-2014

Government advertising soared 45.24 percent in the first half of 2013, compared to the same period of the previous year, as the President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration allocated more cash to official ads at a time when it was getting ready for critical midterm elections, the Chief-of-Staff’s office revealed yesterday.

The report was released following a freedom for information request filed by NGO Poder Ciudadano.

The increase in state spending on official advertising benefited almost all television channels and newspapers, regardless of their ideological views.

From January to June 2013, the national administration allocated 610.45 million pesos in official advertising, compared to 420.29 million pesos during the same period of 2012.
The increase in the national government’s spending on advertising is much higher than the inflation rate, regardless of the way it is measured. Private consultancies estimated last year’s inflation clocked in at 27 percent.

“There have been significant increases in government advertising for opposition media, but those hikes only modify a ridiculously low amount previously,” media expert Martín Becerra said yesterday. “In absolute terms, they are still being ‘punished’ by the government.”

The report was released the same day the Supreme Court ordered the La Plata City government to restore government advertising to a local radio (See below) and a month after the country’s highest court ruled that the Fernández de Kirchner administration should allocate government advertising on Clarín Group’s Channel 13, following a lawsuit by the country’s largest media conglomerate.

An unwilling response

Even though the latest report brought in a flood of data, the government made it difficult for journalists to compare both years, as companies listed in the latest report of government spending on advertising were sorted by their “registration code” rather than in alphabetical order.

Moreover, the report published on the Chief-of-Staff Office’s website yesterday afternoon was in PDF format, which made it difficult to reorder numbers.

As in previous releases, the national administration classified the companies according to the medium — whether the government advertised in cinemas, radio stations, print media, broadcast or cable TV channels, or the street.

Tensions have grown recently between the national government and the Supreme Court over the allocation of government advertising and the lack of clear rules on the matter.

In 2011, the top court ruled in favour of Perfil with the same arguments it had used four years earlier with Río Negro’s most important newspaper in a case against the provincial government of Neuquén.

On that occasion, the tribunal argued that while there is no right to receive a certain amount of government advertising, there is, in fact, protection against using state money arbitrarily.

The Supreme Court is well aware that the government has “cheated” after previous decisions and is repeatedly backing rulings of lower courts ordering the national administration “to prepare and present a distribution scheme for state advertising.”

“Failure to comply with a judicial ruling means a failure to recognize the separation of powers, which leads to a serious deterioration of a constitutional, democratic state,” the justices wrote in a 6-1 decision last February.

Notas relacionadas (Telefé, Channel 9 see biggest increases, La Plata forced to restore ads, Newspapers: gov’t ad revenue up 55%) disponibles en la edición impresa del Buenos Aires Herald.

Macri doubles advertising spending

Macri doubles advertising spending in 2013
City spends 548.4 million pesos in official ads last year, according to report by non-partisan group

by Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Herald, 21-03-2014

Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri’s administration more than doubled its advertising budget during 2013, according to a report published yesterday by the non-profit Argentine Association of Budget and Public Finance Administration (ASAP).

The staggering 110.8 percent yearly hike results from comparing the 548.4 million pesos the Buenos Aires City government spent in advertising during 2013 to the 260.1 million that was spent the previous year.

Unlike the national administration’s number, though, it is impossible to know which media outlets are being favoured by the City’s spending, as the administration has never disclosed such information, Civic Coalition (CC) lawmaker Rocío Sánchez Andía told the Herald.

The report ASAP released yesterday is based on official data from the City Finance Ministry, and takes into account not what was budgeted, but what was actually spent during the period.

“For the official advertising section we gathered spending from all departments that were centralized through the City’s Communications Secretary,” an ASAP official told the Herald.

Local opposition lawmaker Aníbal Ibarra kept his own record of official advertising spending that does not differ greatly from the figures released yesterday.

A source from the former City mayor’s office yesterday told the Herald that according to his records — also based on official sources — the City spent 534.6 million pesos in official ads in 2013 — way more than the 283.9 million the PRO administration placed a year before.

If these figures turn out to be correct, it would mark an 88.3 percent yearly increase.

Similar attitudes

Last week, the national government published a report that indicated President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration had increased spending in official advertising by 45 percent in the first semester of 2013, compared to a year earlier. The report was released following a freedom for information request filed by several NGOs.

In a marked difference from the City numbers, the federal government does name the companies that received official advertising.

In the City’s case, the only report that has shown some of the beneficiaries from this discretionary public policy was not official, but a 2012 report by NGO Poder Ciudadano written by media expert Martín Becerra.

The document analyzed public spending on certain radio and TV outlets from May to October 2011 and proved that cable news channel C5N as well as anti-Kirchnerite channels Todo Noticias (TN) and Channel 13 were the main recipients of advertising by the City government.

Clarín Group’s Radio Mitre, popular radio broadcasters La Red, Rock & Pop, Pop 101.5 and Metro also aired long minutes of City advertisements.

It is unclear as to whether or not this trend continues.

So this means that there is discretionality behind the City government’s actions?

“As a matter of fact, the logic behind Macri’s actions in this regard is identical to that of Kirchnerism,” media expert Santiago Marino told the Herald. “The PRO administration is also allocating a large amount of discretional funds.”

A key veto

In 2010, Macri vetoed key articles of the Official Advertising Law that had been approved by the City Legislature.

The bill had contemplated inputs from different lawmakers, including recommendations from ruling PRO party representative Diana Martínez Barrios, and was unanimously approved on December 3, 2009.

One of the vetoed clauses forced the City government to refrain from using party colours or other partisan identifications for official communications.

Macri’s veto allowed the City to continue using the yellow PRO party colour in local state-run channel Ciudad Abierta, the bike rental system, the Metrobus buses and even the Bafici independent film festival.

Nevertheless, Marino stressed that even this incomplete local Official Advertising Law allows non-commercial media to receive government ads in a transparent way — a benefit they do not enjoy at the national level.

Last year, the now former PRO lawmaker Paula Bertol told newspaper Página/12 that the lack of a good Official Advertising Law was one of the deficits of the Macri administration.

“I believe the City should pass a law (to regulate government ads). It’s something to improve upon,” Bertol said.

Entrevista a Sebastián Carassai

“Las clases medias no peronistas vivieron el golpe desde un desierto anímico”

Bajo la tutoría del historiador Daniel James, Sebastián Carassai se pasó tres años entrevistando a personas de clase media que habían vivido los setenta lejos de la política y del clima de época imperante. Estos sectores, sostiene Carassai, tuvieron una relación particular con el peronismo, la guerrilla y la violencia de aquellos años que el sociólogo plasmó en "Los años setenta de la gente común (siglo XXI)", un aporte fresco a la profusa bibliografía sobre aquella década. Carassai recibió a Viernes.

por Federico Poore
Ámbito Financiero, 13-12-2013

¿Cómo encontró la publicidad que ilustra la tapa del libro (de la aerolínea Austral, con un texto burdo contra la izquierda que termina con "se nos filtró la zurda")?
Sebastián Carassai: Cuando la encontré no lo podía creer. Estaba en Corsa, una revista de automovilismo que tenía una de las personas que entrevisté en Tucumán. Lo que me llamó la atención es que ahí ya aparecían tres líneas que luego estarían muy presentes en el resto de la década. Una es "zurda", el término despectivo para nombrar el pensamiento de izquierda. Después, esta idea de infiltración que también va a ir cobrando cada vez más importancia en el Gobierno y el movimiento peronista... Y finalmente, la idea de la delación ("avísenos").

¿Qué universo define con la "gente común"?
No hay en la voz autoral un concepto semejante (decir "gente común" trae algunos problemas), pero el lector sabe que excluye a los sectores poderosos, del establishment o a quienes ocupaban cargos importantes en las organizaciones políticas. Trabajo fundamentalmente sobre las clases medias que no eligieron la militancia política como modo de comprometerse durante los años setenta. Es importante destacar que no me refiero a ellos como apolíticos: mi esfuerzo está puesto en mostrar que tenían su propia percepción de la realidad política y de la violencia y que, si bien no fueron actores protagónicos, sufrieron consecuencias de los sucesos políticos y a su vez influyeron en el curso de los acontecimientos.

¿Qué descubrió en su análisis de la relación entre la clase media y el peronismo?
Muchos trabajos han puesto su énfasis en los sectores de la clase media que a partir del 55 empiezan a revisar el antiperonismo del cual provienen. Eso, si bien es cierto que sucedió, a veces tiende a confundirse con lo que le sucedió a todo ese sector. Trato de recuperar la relación que mantuvo con el peronismo, ese sector de las clases medias que no se peronizó. Hay que recordar que en la elección de marzo de 1973, (Héctor) Cámpora gana con casi el 50 por ciento de los votos, pero la otra mitad eligió opciones no peronistas, y dentro de ellos, una mayoría era la clase media. Allí hay elementos fundamentales para entender la época.

¿Por qué?
Para este sector social, la elección del 73 abría la posibilidad de un Gobierno no enteramente peronista. Y en ese sentido, el abrumador triunfo de Cámpora fue un baldazo de agua fría. Después de 18 años, el peronismo seguía más o menos intacto, muy fuerte en casi todas las provincias, y era capaz de triunfar en casi cualquier elección libre. Esto produjo un efecto de resignación. Una parte de estos sectores pensó: "No hay nada que hacer, este país es peronista. Han triunfado y no podemos hacer mucho más que mirar este proceso desde nuestro ámbito doméstico". Este sector social vio todo eso desde un desierto anímico. El golpe del 24 de marzo los encontró en ese estado.

En el libro traza una comparación con el golpe del 55.
El 55 también vino a derrotar a un Gobierno peronista. Sin embargo, en aquel entonces un sector importante de las clases medias salió a las calles a "celebrar" la caída del tirano. Las clases medias antiperonistas se sentían protagonistas de una suerte de resistencia cultural al régimen, que se tradujo en algarabía cuando las fuerzas armadas derrocan a Perón. Nada de eso sucede en el 76. La ausencia de gente celebrando la caída de Isabel tiene que ver con que su actitud anterior no fue la de resistir al Gobierno, sino la de una aceptación resignada.

Para ese entonces, sostiene, ya no existía una diferenciación clara entre la postura democrática a secas y lo que luego vendría.
Las valoraciones civiles -pero también de la sociedad política- con respecto a la democracia y la dictadura no las oponían como lo bueno y lo malo. Sin duda que en el '73 hubo una esperanza en la democracia, pero eso rápidamente fue matizado. Por un lado estaba el cambio institucional (se acaba la dictadura, se abre un proceso político con Lanusse ...), pero por el otro la violencia seguía su propio curso. Por lo tanto, cuando llega la dictadura, estos sectores buscaron la novedad de la situación no tanto en la violencia sino en ese clima de orden que la dictadura supo mostrar.

Otra de las relaciones que revisa y matiza en el libro es la relación de la clase media con la guerrilla. ¿No era tanta la simpatía?
La guerrilla generó una simpatía en sus inicios. Lo que pasa es que se había aceptado que ese nivel de simpatía era realmente altísimo, por un índice que publica Guillermo O'Donnell en "El Estado burocrático-autoritario". Eso me llevó a preguntarme cómo había sido construido ese índice. Hablé con O'Donnell, que vivía en ese momento, y llegué a otros estudios de opinión pública que se habían hecho en esos mismos años con preguntas directas, lo que me llevó a concluir que no había una simpatía tan amplia y que la mayoría opinaba que el Estado debía sancionar fuertemente a estas organizaciones.

Entrevistó a gente en Buenos Aires, Tucumán y un pueblo de Santa Fe llamado Correa. ¿Encontró diferencias en las percepciones de las clases medias en grandes ciudades y pequeñas localidades?
Las diferencias más importantes tienen menos que ver con la zona geográfica que con la generación. Aquellos que eran jóvenes en los setenta tenían un visión mucho más contemplativa sobre la violencia y las organizaciones guerrilleras que sus mayores. La Masacre de Trelew tuvo un impacto muy fuerte en la generación que pertenecía al mismo rango etario de aquellos asesinados. Cuando uno habla con generaciones mayores, en cambio, no recuerdan haber derramado muchas lágrimas por ellos.

Uno de los temas que analiza como colchón ideológico del día a día en los setenta son las publicidades. En ese sentido, llama mucho la atención la obsesión con las armas.
Es un tema fundamental que también va a ir in crescendo. A partir de 1969, se naturaliza la utilización de la violencia como vehículo eficaz para seducir consumidores. Inmediatamente pensé que podía ser algo de época, entonces investigué qué pasaba en otras latitudes en revistas análogas, como Paris Match, Der Spiegel, Newsweek, Life. Y si bien hay muchísimas fotografías de hechos de violencia, son fotos de la realidad.

Acá se llegó a publicitar el juguete "Guerrillero", o productos de Billiken con armas.
El hecho de que hayan llegado al ámbito de la publicidad, y de una manera tan coloquial y frívola, muestra que los mecanismos que habitualmente tiene la sociedad para inhibir la pulsión de muerte estaban resquebrajados, horadados.

¿Cuándo hizo las entrevistas?
Entre 2007 y 2009.

El clima de época, ¿no afectó los recuerdos de estas personas sobre aquel momento?
El presente siempre se filtra en los juicios que tenemos sobre el pasado. Es algo con lo que los historiadores orales tenemos que lidiar. Lo primero que hice fue investigar, en paralelo, los documentos y el archivo. Lo otro fue un experimento: hice un documental sobre el período 1969-1982 sin un relato en off y con fragmentos de películas de la época, publicidades...

¿Los entrevistados te hablaron más de política o sobre detalles de la vida cotidiana?
Cuando empecé la investigación no había decidido concentrarme únicamente en la violencia política. Creí que iban a ser dos capítulos de un libro mucho más amplio sobre los valores cívicos, la idea de democracia... Hay muchísimo material que no. Ahora bien, si uno quiere entender los setenta, no puede ser solamente mi libro. Tiene que leer "La voluntad", de (Martín) Caparrós y (Eduardo) Anguita. Alguien una vez me dijo que estaba haciendo "un libro sobre la no-voluntad". Pero no: no hice un libro sobre la no-voluntad sino sobre la voluntad de hacer otra cosa. Tengo muchas ganas de hacer un segundo volumen. Hace falta complementar esta investigación con otro trabajo que responda a la pregunta: ¿Y entonces, en qué se le iba la vida a esta gente?

Bell Ville (Córdoba), 1972
Estudios: Doctorado en Historia, Indiana University
Trabajo: docente en UBA, investigador del Conicet
Rutina Informativa: La Nación, Página/12, Perfil, The New York Times, The Washington Post y El País (España)
Libro preferido: Epistolario, de Baruch Spinoza

Entrevista a Emilio Balcarce

Emilio Balcarce, editor of the crime section at Crónica newspaper
‘Being a best-selling newspaper does not make you part of the popular press’

by Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Herald, 09-03-2014

Emilio Balcarce quickly apologizes for arriving late for the interview at Bar Suárez in downtown Buenos Aires. He asks for a Coke and explains: “Journalism is how I earn a living, but comics are my passion.” Balcarce has written more than 300 scripts for comic books, and has been the editor of the crime section at the tabloid Crónica for more than 15 years. In this Herald interview, he discusses recent changes in his line of work and the ethical limits of his profession.

How do you learn about events?
The phone, reporters covering a story and people who call the newsroom are our traditional sources. The courts are our main reliable sources. In contrast, police precincts aren’t great sources because they often have links to mayors or to some of those who are involved (in the crimes). Obviously, the information explosion of the Internet is incredible. I’m from the Remington era, from the era of typewriters, and I find the current situation to be an amazing evolution. Crime reporters now normally use Facebook to gather information about people involved in a crime, pictures that maybe the family does not want to share...

How big is the crime section?
We’re short-staffed. We used to have more people (in the section), but the team has been reduced. Some reporters work for our section but also for other areas. We used to have our own reporters. (Pauses) Times are changing, in every sense.

How long have you been at the newspaper?
I’ve been part of Editorial Sarmiento (publisher of Crónica and Democracia newspapers) for 28 years now. The first 10 years I was part of the crime news magazine Esto. When the magazine closed, I started working at Crónica, and since the year 2000 I’ve been head of the crime section.

How has your work changed throughout the years?
In the past, we relied a lot on wire agencies. Now it’s a different thing. The newspaper mobilizes its own network of reporters in the most important cases but not in all cases. For example, if something happens in the (Buenos Aires province district of) Luján, you can turn to local media websites. Things like that were unavailable in the past. We’re also more connected to other provinces. We used to depend on wire services, on our chances of picking up the phone and calling, or on whoever we planned to send there for important cases, such as the Nora Dalmasso murder. Now it isn’t that necessary.

What criteria do you use to interpret or filter sources of information? One might think that some sources are more reliable than others, especially in this line of work.
Each city has its own media and we know how accurate they are at reporting the news. For instance, La Capital newspaper in Rosario has excellent journalists and a broad coverage of what goes on in the city. I can’t say the same thing about other Santa Fe province newspapers. The same happens with Mendoza’s Los Andes or with Cadena 3 in Córdoba... We usually rely on newspapers that do the best crime coverage. That is, obviously, in the cases in which we’re unable to send a special correspondent to cover the story.

Has your work changed with the consolidation of cable news TV stations?
Well, Crónica has its own news channel (Crónica TV) and then there’s C5N, TN... They’re other news outlets, although they need to be fact-checked, too.

Do you feel a pressure to write better stories for the print edition? How do you add value to an event that happened 24 hours earlier?
We arrive at the scene to try and gather some exclusive information. We save our scoops until the following day. And then we try to develop the story. If a businessman was killed, we’ll try to find his relatives, we investigate his relationship with the people he knew personally, we try to find out why he was killed...

The main difference between Crónica’s front pages in the 90s and those in 2014 is that there’s less graphic violence and more entertainment now. Do you agree with that change?
This change had to do with the fact that the owner used to be Héctor Ricardo García (founder of Crónica in 1963) and that the newspaper has been changing hands. Now the newspaper is aimed at a more general audience, and is becoming more connected to the Internet. These days people won’t read anything that’s not on a screen, especially the younger generations and I believe that’s the future of newspapers: to end up in a tablet.

What difference do you notice between Crónica and Diario Popular, your main competitor?
As Crónica is trying to broaden its appeal, Diario Popular keeps targeting the same audience. We lost most of those readers during times of conflict: our newspaper would not come out for five days, and you simply cannot give away such an advantage to competitors. Now we’re struggling to get that audience back.

What is your opinion of the Muy and Libre tabloids created by Clarín and Perfil?
I don’t believe they are competition. I think they’re trying to copy other products, making a hotchpotch of it. They lack our experience. Being a best-selling newspaper does not make you part of the popular press.

Journalist Diego Rottman said they were ‘the popular press of Palermo.
Exactly. I think he’s right. They are copying a certain style and they are not that good at it.

What stories do audiences find most appealing?
In 28 years of journalism I haven’t seen anything like the Ángeles (Rawson) case. As a case it has yet to be matched. There have been few other times when the media managed to influence the judges’ decisions, bad police work, mistakes by the prosecutor. The superintendent (accused of murdering the 16-year-old girl) was arrested and there are still a lot of people who believe he’s innocent, despite all the evidence against him.

Why do you believe this was such a special case?
She was a middle-class girl. An excellent student, a big fan of Japanese anime... Then there’s the factor of the superintendent living in the same building, this whole metaphor of “sleeping with the enemy”.

Don’t you believe journalism should also be held responsible for exceeding certain limits?
The media is full of pundits who make unsubstantiated accusations and this case is not an exception even though I’m a part of this media system, too. They were revealing the most intimate secrets of a teenager and I’ve heard (TV host Samuel) “Chiche” Gelblung talking nonsense about Ángeles’ half-brother...

What are your limits?
Cases involving underage children. The case of Jazmín de Grazia (in which Crónica published a controversial front page with photographs of the 27-year-old model the moment she was found dead in her apartment) was a decision by the newspaper’s executives, they believe these types of photos sell well. Something similar happened at Esto magazine when it published the complete autopsy of Alicia Muñiz, (boxer Carlos) Monzón’s girlfriend. I was on holidays and was so embarrassed to hear about what the magazine had published. I have my limits, but I work at a newspaper and sometimes you have to obey orders from the company’s executives.

What is the most strange thing you’ve witnessed in these 28 years?
We worked with forensic photographers. Once, one of them brought me the picture of a dead guy with a knife stuck to his forehead — one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen in my life. The photographer then told us that the knife was actually on the floor and that he had stuck the knife in the victim’s forehead just for the picture. You see those boundaries I was telling you I would never cross? Well, this photographer crossed them.

Born: June 5, 1956
Studies: ‘At Lincoln School. Then I studied advertising design’
Reads: ‘All news portals, beginning with Infobae and Online 911’
Favourite book: 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke