Argentina Could Face the Same Fate as Mexico in the War on Drugs

Argentina's Mauricio Macri has vowed to toughen his stance on international drug trafficking.
Argentina’s Mauricio Macri has vowed to toughen his stance on international drug trafficking (Tiempo Motor).


Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s law and order approach has produced some encouraging results in his first year of government, but the experiences of other countries in the region highlight some disadvantages of his hardline approach, according to InSight Crime, a foundation dedicated to the study of organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In a study published Monday, December 19 on its website, the organization noted that Macri initiated radical changes in the country’s security policies with an emphasis on a militaristic approach. Towards this end, the study highlights that the government has hired American and Israeli advisers, sent drug traffickers to jail, and flooded the most insecure areas of the country with federal troops, among other measures.

The first year’s results have produced successes. The foundation details that during the first half of 2016, the murder rate fell in Argentina by 19%, from 1,535 to 1,251. In the province of Buenos Aires, the most populous of the country, the number of murders dropped by 21% in the same period, from 656 to 519. In Buenos Aires, the number fell from 105 to 64, a decline of 40%.

However, the foundation believes that while the figures may be very encouraging now, “Macri’s approach has a number of vulnerabilities that could create major security difficulties in the future.”

Like Macri, former Mexican President Felipe Calderón addressed the country’s instability by  beefing up Mexico’s security policy, sending 7,000 troops to Michaocán, a few days after assuming the presidency in 2006. Calderón reacted to a series of high-profile incidents that were widely reported in the media. In Argentina, the arrests of many of the top Colombian capos had the same effect, among other measures.

InSight Crime asserts that initially Mexico suffered a slowdown in violence not unlike that of today’s Argentina. The total number of murders nationwide in 2007 fell to 10,253 from 11,806 the previous year. However, these results did not last long.

“Militarization helped turn a manageable challenge into a notorious international disaster, with the homicide rate more than doubling from its 2007 low, and the northern border city of Ciudad Juárez winning the dubious title of the most violent city in the world,” Highlights InSight Crime.

The initially “modest” deployment of soldiers grew exponentially, with tens of thousands of soldiers patrolling in major cities. Currently, Mexico‘s security policy is still linked to the military as never before, to the point that the lower house of Congress is considering a law that could expand the role of the military in internal security and make it permanent, the foundation emphasizes.

“Calderon’s enthusiasm for launching a war against organized crime created a sense of inextricable dependence, in which Mexico was unable to abandon militarized politics but also unable to solve its security problems through the armed forces, not even four years after Calderón stepped down, “according to InSight Crime’s analysis.”

In general, there have been unforeseen complications in countries that followed a more militarized approach to drug policy. For this reason there are concerns that Macri could run the same risk as Calderón in Mexico.

Putting drug traffickers in jail can make good headlines for the press, but it could also “exacerbate the underlying incentives pushing the drug trade.” The same applies to the use of federal troops, which can be seen as a way of sidelining “ineffective and corrupt” police, “but high-impact tactics can only encourage gangs to become more aggressive, thus fomenting violence.”

Although Argentina has never had the global importance of Mexico in the drug trafficking world, nor powerful organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel or the Zetas, these differences “do not excuse Macri.”

“The determination of an executive to demonstrate toughness without recognizing the underlying causes of insecurity (foreign demand, geographical proximity to key routes, endemic corruption, social immobility) is an ingredient not only for failure, but for a spiral of increasing violence “Concludes InSight Crime.

Source: Insight Crime

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