Argentina downplays concerns of rising crime

Official points to UN data showing Argentina is among the safest countries in Latin America.

Argentina downplays concerns of rising crime

World Bulletin / News Desk

Argentina’s government Thursday shot down concerns of rising crime even as the issue climbs in opinion polls and the Roman Catholic Church said more needs to be done.

“We have a constant decline in crime rates,” Sergio Berni, the national secretary of security, said in an interview on A24, a Buenos Aires-based cable news network.

He backed his claims with United Nations data that shows Argentina is among the safest countries in the region along with Cuba and Uruguay. He said the homicide rate is less than 6 percent.

Berni spoke after a spate of high-profile crimes this year gripped news headlines and sparked some people to fight back in Latin America’s third-largest economy. A number of vigilante attacks has put thieves in hospital.

A survey last month by Management & Fit, a consulting firm, found that 80 percent of Argentines feel that crime is the country’s leading problem ahead of inflation (64 percent), unemployment (50 percent) and corruption (38 percent).

Of those polled, 38 percent said President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was not doing enough to tackle crime, while 14 percent blamed the justice system, 4.3 percent pointed the finger at provincial authorities and 3.7 percent at the police.

The rise in concerns about crime has put the government on its toes, with senior officials coming out to try to assuage the public. The president herself said last month that perception of crime is not much different than in previous decades, saying there is “nothing new under the sun.”

Berni did admit there is a problem, but not with homicides and other felonies.

“There is more violence but not more crime,” he said.

“The events happen but not in the same quantity as crime in 2001,” Berni said in reference to when Argentina fell into its worst economic crisis on record.

While there are hotspots for crime such as Rosario in central Argentina, where Colombian, Mexican and Peruvian drug-trafficking cartels have set up, most of the rest of the country is calmer.

In Buenos Aires, Berni said crime rates are much lower than “some cities in the United States.”

He said a bigger problem is how to keep criminals off the street when they are caught.

“The fundamental pillar in the fight against crime is the justice system,” Berni said.

He criticized the ineffectiveness of the justice system by saying it would be better to replace judges with “vending machines” or “robots,” adding that “we don’t have a problem with laws but their interpretation.”

The government is coming under heat as the economy falls into recession and inflation surges. Opposition political parties are pushing for a clampdown on crime in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election.

Jorge Capitanich, the president’s chief of staff, said that while crime is a problem it is not just the government that has to act. He said in a televised press conference Thursday that TV news programs often repeat the same story on crime, boosting the sensation of the problem.

“The mentions of murders have increased” in the media, he said, without providing comparative data.

The Argentine Episcopal Conference, a gathering of bishops of the Roman Catholic Church from around the country, plans to release a report on insecurity Friday, DyN newswire reported.

The Church has said it is concerned about the rise in crime and drug trafficking as well as state inaction in terms of prevention, control and putting criminals on trial and behind bars. 

Last Mod: 09 Mayıs 2014, 11:13
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