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Column 012516 Brewer

Monday, January 25, 2016

Argentina's Ambitious New Security Plan shows Real Promise

By Jerry Brewer

Argentina’s recently elected President Mauricio Macri (56) appears, so far, to be a breath of fresh air for Latin America with his avowed, motivated and aggressive posture against drug trafficking and organized crime that is so prevalent throughout the hemisphere.

That may not be such a tough act to follow, after outgoing President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s eight years in the high office – with considerable controversy and many allegations of corruption.

She began her two terms as president on 10 December 2007, following her late husband Nestor’s four-year term as president. The challenges facing her from the inception were poor public security, inflation, and international credibility.

Essentially, Cristina was never able to overcome the accusations, ranging from covering up a terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires to claims of collusion with the late Venezuelan leftist President Hugo Chavez, who was accused of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to her presidential campaign. 

Public records would eventually reveal that both Kirchner’s terms, in power from 2003, showed an accumulated wealth that increased by “572 percent.”

Nestor was once quoted, in a speech to Venezuela's National Assembly, as saying, "Venezuela represents a true democracy fighting for the dignity of its people." And Cristina Kirchner's latter days in office closely followed her husband’s alignment with much of the Hugo Chavez doctrine.

President Macri thus campaigned strongly on pledges to tackle crime and fight corruption and bring new investment into the ailing economy. He also had an additional strong motivation against crime, as he had been kidnapped in 1991 “and kept captive for 12 days by a gang of corrupt policemen demanding millions in ransom.”

Transnational organized criminals have stealthily and increasingly encroached into the Argentine homeland, engaging in violent battles for control of lucrative criminal turf and illicit contraband supply chains.

Argentina has easily transitioned from having been a transit country for drug trafficking, into a huge consumer country, “controlled by an ever growing nucleus of illicit power brokers and growing corruption of security forces.”

Argentina is now the second largest domestic market for cocaine in Latin America, after Brazil. As well, it has become both a major market and transit point in the world drug trade as international trafficking groups have expanded their activities, from a destination for synthesis to increasing exports, as well as consumption. 

Further motivation for Macri’s pledges on crime relate to the shame of Argentina in becoming a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, according to the U.S. State Department. 

There are reported significant numbers of sex trafficking victims from rural areas or northern provinces, and the Chilean border region, who are “forced into prostitution in urban centers.”  Many are sent to wealthier provinces in central and southern Argentina.

Macri has strategically, and hopefully wisely, appointed a multi-faceted Minister of Security by the name of Patricia Bullrich (59) to his cabinet.

Bullrich left Congress in 1997 and began Union for All (UPT), described as a “vehicle for studying and campaigning on the subject of crime and security.”  She also worked for the state government in Buenos Aires Province on “security matters, developing a community policing project that became well-known nationally and internationally.” Bullrich also served in the Department of Criminal Policy and Penitentiary Matters.

Argentina must have proper police and security deployments and effective coordination and oversight. Proactive training and professional development by a selected cadre of international security and policing experts who have a diverse expertise in confronting transnational organized crime and counterterror is critically important. 

There must also be a professionalization of the criminal justice functions to enhance criminal investigation of violent crimes and criminal conspiracies to achieve successful prosecutions leading to extended incarceration. Argentina’s judicial system faces and is susceptible to severe delays, inefficiency and thousands of open cases and few solved.

President Macri shrewdly wants to strategically deploy his operating units via the Superintendent of Dangerous Drugs into the interior territories. This will require superior criminal intelligence and counterintelligence capabilities to recognize, interdict and monitor any continued acts of crime and corruption.

Policing infrastructure in many of those areas will be weak and vulnerable. Areas in provinces of Mendoza, Santa Fe, Salta, Jujuy and others may require military-like strategies to minimize aggressive confrontations. Argentina has little control of its borders with Paraguay and Bolivia that are extremely dangerous regions and heavily transited by criminal and insurgent-like guerrillas.

Sectoring these enforcement efforts to stop the spread or organized crime will require strong senior leadership and management for maximum efficiency and a tough anti-crime posture. Taking control of each territory must be a well- coordinated effort and require superb crime analyses. The policing techniques must be professionalized and modern.

Macri’s policing efforts must be tough and decisive against all violent criminal acts. Argentina must not make the same mistakes and suffer the human carnage of Mexico in 2005 and 2006, or the northern triangle tier nations of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that continue to suffer indecision and defeat.


Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at

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