Thursday, October 15, 2009
In the Buenos Aires provincial police, ''each division dedicates itself to the area of crime that it is supposed to be fighting,'' said Alejandra Vallespir, a sociologist at the University of Buenos Aires who has written extensively about the police force. ''The robbery division steals and robs, the narcotics division traffics drugs, auto theft controls the stealing of cars and the chop shops, and those in fraud and bunco defraud and swindle.''
As we discussed via Skype last week, Argentina’s police are not well trusted amongst the citizens. This largely results from memories of police fulfilled repression and torture up through the beginning of the 1980s. Corruption within the police forces continues to be a common theme throughout the country, although is apparently more blatant and escalated within provincial police. Each of the country’s twenty-three provinces maintains its own police force, while the federal government is responsible for the police in Buenos Aires city.
As reported in many newspapers and other media outlets, the police fulfill the role that the mafia plays in many other major cities. They are involved in corruption aspects from everyday bribes (for speeding tickets, theft, etc) to aiding the terrorists who were responsible for the anti-Semitic terrorist attacks in the 1990s against the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community center. (See the below link).
As described by an anthropologist specializing in the relationship between police and poverty who recently gave a lecture to my class, there exists an unwritten rule within the police force of looking the other way when a fellow officer commits a crime. For this reason, police are not reported for corruption by their peers. Furthermore, any denouncement coming from outside the force is also passed over with the same complacency.
Several older articles from The New York Times expand upon the graveness of this issue within the police of the province of Buenos Aires, where corruption is often portrayed as the most extreme. These articles demonstrate the inability of the country’s last president, Nestor Kirchner, to curb corruption in the province, one of his principle platforms.
Although corruption is perceived as less intense within the federal police of Buenos Aires city, the capital’s mayor, Mauricio Macri, is in the process of creating a his own police force not maintained by the federal government. Ideally, this smaller police force (La Policía Metropolitana) with be responsible only for the city and with report directly to the mayor, rather than be susceptible to corrupt police who fall through the cracks because of a larger provincial or federal bureaucracy. The following article outlines the role of this new branch of police.