Rocked by violent crime, Buenos Aires has forced the city officials to declare a state of emergency. Argentines, fed up with police corruption and ineptness, have started to take the law into their own hands. In the past week, twelve criminals have been the recipients of vigilante justice.
While announcing the state of emergency, provincial governor, Daniel Scioli said, “Too much blood has been spilled.”
Argentina’s President, Cristina Kirchner, has continued to blame the media for the rising number of beatings received by criminals. Kirchner urged the media not to “hide good news” and instructed the media to use words of anger but not words of hate.
Taking the side of the criminals, Kirchner said that some people want the country to return to barbarism.
“We were accused of having ‘aggressive speech,’ but it is them [the vigilantes] who behave violently,” she said. Speaking at the opening of the Word Federal Encounter, Kirchner urged the vigilantes to be rational and civilized. Kirchner continues to point to “social inclusion” as the only way to solve the current crime problems.
The governor’s declaration is in response to an increasing vigilante movement to fight rapidly rising crime rates in the Argentina capital.
“They kill and rob. What do you expect?” asked Jose Villalba, 64, and the superintendent of a downtown office building.
One person, 18-year old David Moreira, has been killed at the hands of vigilantes. Moreira, killed in Rosario, stole a woman’s purse and was beaten by a group of bystanders fed up with the crime in South America’s second largest country.
Public reaction to the vigilantism has been varied in Buenos Aires. A recent survey conducted by Raul Aragon Associates shows that 30 percent of Buenos Aires’ residents approve of the “lynchings.” Sixty percent oppose the vigilante justice and over 90 percent think crime is out of control in the country.
Scioli intends to invest $74 million to lower the crime rate. On his shopping list are 1,000 new patrol cars, 10,000 weapons and 30,000 bulletproof vests. Additionally, Scioli intends to rehire 5,000 retired officers to complement the existing police force of 72,000. Buenos Aires is home to 15 million people, one-third of the nation’s population.
Shanty towns, called “villas miserias,” surround Buenos Aires. Known as hotbeds for violent crime and drug trafficking, much of the beefed up “policia” is expected to focus on the urban ghettos.
Local media has taken to call the vigilante justice, “lynchings.” The word has a different meaning in Latin America than it does in the US, especially the American south. People are mixed in their opinions to the word lynching being used in describing the beatings that criminals are experiencing. Some are saying that using the word paints the criminal in the role of victim.
Argentina has consistently held the top spot in Latin America for violent crime. Robberies occur at the rate of 974 per 100,000 inhabitants and only Brazil and Venezuela have higher murder rates.
Buenos Aires has already lost the top vacation spot to Santiago, Chile. Some tourism officials blame the crime rate.
By Jerry Nelson