Security Minister Patricia Bullrich linked public safety to the continuation of the Mauricio Macri presidency this week, as she warned that a vote for the opposition would be a step back for Argentina.
In full campaign mode at last Wednesday’s Rotary Club luncheon, Bullrich emphasised the importance of tackling crime and security and protecting the citizenry from criminals, all the while using the word “mafia” far more often to describe the “corporativist” obstacles to becoming a modern country than to refer to organised crime.
In this electoral year Bullrich began by saying that it took more than regular elections to create a genuinely and deeply democratic society. Nor could the economy be corrected simply by coming up with an economic plan – success was only possible after ending the constant obstacle race against “mafias” and selfish interest groups, she insisted.
As two examples of what she meant from recent news , she cited a teamster blockade of Tucumán lemon exports (resolved by the intervention of Border Guards at her behest against the indifference of the provincial government) and the CGT boycott of the Senate session on the labour whitewash bill – more interested in denying the Macri government a victory than in protecting the informally employed.
In a word, Argentina was in “midstream” and must choose this year between going forward or back with the danger of “a return to 70 percent inflation if you don’t accompany us.”
The minister was prepared to admit to “unforced errors ... like the best tennis players” (when asked to give an example, she gave the initial belief that the simple fact of the Macri government taking office would solve the problems by magic with nothing more than gradualism needed) but insisted that those problems did not arise from those unforced errors – they came from the “mafias.”
“Everyday problems are not solved by everyday remedies – you’ve got to try something different,” she concluded before proceeding to her own specific portfolio in the second half of her 20-minute speech.
‘CHANGE THE PARADIGM’
Bullrich described her ministerial mission as to “change the security paradigm” along the lines of three main priorities – to update the Criminal Code, to stop treating the police as criminals and to protect those falling victims to crime instead of those committing them.
The minister went as far to say that the previous Kirchnerite governments had been 99 percent in favour of the latter (which does not sound like an accurate description of their Security secretary, Army Lieutenant-Colonel Sergio Berni).
Bullrich’s security rundown was much stronger on campaign slogans than on detail – her only specifics were a mention of anti-hooligan legislation, the tighter border controls at the Salta frontier town of Orán and throwing out the figure that the “productivity” of the fight against drug-trafficking had improved 70 percent with multi-billion-dollar drug seizures.
During question time there were a couple of efforts to pin her down over security. One concerned the recent fatal clash in Avellaneda between federal and provincial policemen working in ignorance of each other (here it could be pointed out that Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal might not always disagree with policemen being treated as criminals since she has purged over 12,000 of them from her provincial police force). Another concerned the espionage ring uproar arising from the statements of Marcelo D’Alessio.
Bullrich’s reply was that she had no problems with the Buenos Aires provincial government or police nor with AFI intelligence nor with Justice Minister Germán Garavano nor with anybody in the judicial branch apart from isolated cases of permissive judges. Tripping up the Buenos Aires provincial government would not only be wrong but also stupid, she added.
Asked to name her most difficult moment as minister, she described three as springing to mind – the 2017 death of Santiago Maldonado (which she described as a supreme example of “stigmatising the security forces” and turning fake news into truth), the prison breakout of the convicted General Rodríguez killers in the first month of the Macri presidency and the case of Luis Chocobar (the offduty policeman who shot dead a fleeing mugger in the Boca neighbourhood).
Finally, asked about frequent rumours as to her being Macri’s running-mate this October, she replied that nobody had told her anything and that she would not handle her Security Ministry responsibilities properly if she were thinking ahead.