Argentina insecurity takes political center stage

A spate of vigilante attacks exposes concerns of rising crime as inflation surges

A spate of vigilante attacks exposes concerns of rising crime as inflation surges

BUENOS AIRES – A spate of vigilante attacks on criminals over the past month in Argentina has raised concerns of rising crime and insecurity, with political leaders battling over the reasons behind the swelling tension.

The attacks hit public attention over the weekend after people caught a thief Saturday afternoon in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires.

He had tried to steal a woman’s handbag and then escape with an accomplice on a motorcycle, a common tactic for robbery.

But more than 30 people surrounded the thief after he took the handbag and at least seven people beat him up before the police interceded 25 minutes later, Buenos Aires-based newspaper Clarin reported Sunday.

“It was like they were taking turns to hit him,” leaving him bloodied, bruised and with a black eye, Diego Grillo Trubba, a sociologist and journalist, told Clarin. “They were regular guys. And they were willing to kill him.”

This was the latest episode of vigilante attacks across the country, with an 18 year old dying from head wounds in Rosario, Santa Fe last month.

The attacks come as social tension swells with 35 percent annual inflation and concerns of job losses. The economy is expected to fall into recession this year after robust growth for much of the past decade.

On public television late Monday, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner called for a stop to the attacks, adding that vengeance is not the answer to crime.

“Anything that generates violence begets more violence,” she said. “When someone feels his life for the rest of society is not worth two pesos, we cannot claim that the lives of others, for him, are worth more than two pesos.”

She said that the poor must be brought into mainstream society, a policy her political party has pursued since taking power in 2003 with a series of welfare programs like child subsidies and low-cost mortgage loans.

“A greater degree of exclusion generates more violence and confrontation between Argentines, which is what we want to avoid,” she said.

Congressman Sergio Massa, an opposition leader and possible candidate for president in the 2015 election, also came out against the attacks. But he differed with the president on what he believes are the sources of the attacks.

“These situations come about because the state is absent and society doesn’t want to live with impunity,” he said Tuesday on Radio 10.

He called for the construction of a system that “sets rules, rewards and punishments,” adding that the government needs to guarantee the rule and enforcement of the law. “Those who don’t comply with the basic rules of coexistence must receive the appropriate sanctions.”

Carlos Germano, a political analyst at Carlos Germano y Asociados, downplayed the sparring between the politicians, saying that while the attacks have become a media sensation they are isolated and not a reality for all of society.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency