Early concerns among Macri’s first policy announcements

By: Santiago Baruh, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Editor: James A. Baer, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

To download a PDF version of this article, click here.

The results of the November 22nd run-off presidential elections in Argentina may have marked the beginning of a historic turning point in Latin American politics. With the victory of Mauricio Macri over the Government’s candidate, Daniel Scioli, Argentina’s presidency moved from a leftist government product of the “pink tide” to a center-right political administration for the first time in years. This move might soon be echoed in Venezuela, which is scheduled to hold legislative elections on December 6, a process that might result in a hard rebuke of the current administration. This shift can be seen as being symptomatic of a wider trend in Latin American politics, one which has seen countries moving from the center-left governments that came to power in the period 1998-2004 to center-right administrations. If Venezuela and other countries follow suit some observers will likely see this as the beginning of a rightward trend, the product of economic slowdown and serial corruption scandals. Macri’s coalition, Cambiemos (Let’s change), ran on a platform that targeted these issues directly, sharply proposing to change many of the longstanding unpopular policies implemented by the successive administrations of Cristina Fernandez and her late husband and immediate predecessor, President Néstor Kirchner. Two of the main promises revolved around regularizing the exchange rate with the U.S. dollar and bringing down inflation (which private estimates put at around 25 percent and official estimates at around 15 percent). Another issue that Let’s Change has promised to address was crime and drug-trafficking in particular. Drug-trafficking and drug-related violence has been a growing problem in Argentina and it has been concentrated in some of the poorer neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, the northern provinces of Argentina and, especially in the city of Rosario, the second largest city in the country.

On the morning of Monday, November 23, President-Elect Macri hosted his first press conference as the incoming President, in which he addressed a range of topics regarding his future administration. One policy announced at this event should raise great concern among his national and international audiences. He announced his decision to declare the “Emergency State for Security” to combat crime and specially drug-trafficking. This new policy is likely to present two problems for Mr. Macri. The first issue relates to Macri’s prospect of having sufficient votes to get this policy approved by Congress, considering that he does not have a majority in either Chamber of Congress. Secondly, if such a law were approved, then he would have to deal with the potential increase in violations of human rights by public security forces, something that has been a deeply troubling staple of Argentine public life for many years. Police violence and impunity have been major issues plaguing law enforcement in Argentina, with the incidence of both problems having only grown over the last 15 years, as shown by annual reports of CORREPI (the National Coordinator Against Police and Institutional Repression), one of the leading NGOs working on the matter of police impunity. According to CORREPI’s report, 11.82 percent of instances of police repression between 1983 and 2015 have taken place in the province of Santa Fe, which puts it in second place after the province of Buenos Aires (45.43 percent of cases).[1] Clearly then, these two provinces where personal insecurity is such an important issue are also the same venues where police has been the most involved in human rights abuses.

If, after his December 10 inauguration, President-elect Macri decides to move forward with this policy, his administration could begin to do it in a way that will not exacerbate the structural violence of which the poorer and most vulnerable sectors of Argentine society are victims. Furthermore, if the state of emergency is declared, accountability measures need to be improved in order to decrease the level of impunity among state security forces. Were these effects to run unchecked, it could weaken public confidence in the Government as well as produce a backlash against public institutions, as happened following the most grievous instances of police brutality in the early 2000s. This would be an exceedingly retrogressive development for a country looking to strengthen its institutional presence, as Argentina is trying to do. Furthermore, it would put into question the trust placed on him by voters from different parties and political tendencies that supported his coalition as the best option to govern the country for the next four years.

By: Santiago Baruh, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated. For additional news and analysis on Latin America, please go to: LatinNews.com and Rights Action.

Featured Photo: Buenos Aires, June 4, 2013. Mauricio Macri (third from the left) at the presentation of Federico Sturzenegger’s book, “Yo no me quiero ir” (Russavia)

[1] CORREPI (2015), Antirrepresivo 2015: Los gobiernos Pasan, la Represión queda, la lucha también, available online at <http://correpi.lahaine.org/?p=1589> (last accessed 12/02/2015)

 

4 thoughts on “Early concerns among Macri’s first policy announcements

  • December 2, 2015 at 4:12 pm
    Permalink

    What about economic policy? Liberalization of the economy?

    Reply
    • December 3, 2015 at 10:46 am
      Permalink

      Hey Justin,

      Thank you very much for the comment. The article focused on the issue of security and police violence given the fact that this is one of the most defined policy announcements made by Macri and because the changes that will be introduced into the economy are as of yet unclear in their impact. Yes, there will be changes, but understanding how this will affect the population at large is hard to predict as of now. On the other hand, declaring the state of emergency for security issues (as well as increased cooperation with the United States, which has traditionally favored an approach to drug trafficking based on the criminalization of use as well as interdiction measures) is likely to have a negative impact, as explained in the article.

      Again, thank you for your comment and you can reach me at coha@coha.org

      Santiago Baruh
      Research Associate
      COHA

      Reply
  • December 2, 2015 at 9:00 pm
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    Interesting piece here but I am surprised at the writer’s use of the term “structural violence” to describe impunity of law enforcement institutions. Could the author please cite what he means by this definition? Also, is there any prospect for increased U.S.-Argentine security cooperation to address some of the challenges that Macri is targeting? How will this change in administration impact U.S.-Argentine security cooperation, and what is the state of this collaboration?

    Reply
    • December 3, 2015 at 11:11 am
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      Hi Ned,

      Thank you for your comment. “Structural violence” is a widely used concept that was first developed by Johan Galtung in his 1969 article “Violence, Peace and Peace Research.” In his seminal piece, the author refers to structural violence as “violence [that] is built into the structure and shows up as unequal power and consequently as unequal
      life chances” (Galtung, 1969:171). In this way, if state security forces enjoy high levels of impunity, these are more likely to affect those members of society with less resources given that it is harder for them to achieve reparations or redress.
      As to increased U.S.-Argentine security cooperation, yes there are already signs that this will likely increase with the incoming Argentine administration such as comments by the newly designated Argentine ambassador in the U.S., Martin Lousteau, who in an interview published in La Nación” today (03/12/2015) pertaining to this. On the side of the United States, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs sent a letter to President Obama asking him to improve relations with Argentina and one of the topics covered was increased counter-narcotic cooperation (http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/press-release/chairman-royce-ranking-member-engel-congratulate-president-elect-macri-and-urge-obama ). The impact of this cooperation is unclear yet since there have been no developments as to what form will it take and what will be the extent of it. However, considering that the United States has traditionally favored an approach based on interdiction and coercive measures to fight drug trafficking, it could potentially make the situation worse. Furthermore, although there is the possibility that closer U.S.-Argentine cooperation helps develop accountability among security forces, past examples of U.S. involvement with public security forces that enjoy high levels of impunity would put this potential result in doubt.

      Thanks again for your comment. If you have any further doubt, you can reach me at coha@coha.org.

      Kind regards,

      Santiago Baruh
      Research Associate

      COHA

      Reply

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