"With this protocol the life of a criminal facing the police is not in danger, it just has to surrender."
Interview with Sebastián Aurucci, former national director of relations with provinces and municipalities.
Politics and Economics
President Macri's government surprised everyone when it published in the official bulletin resolution 956/18 regulating the use of firearms by federal security forces. The surprise was as much for the members of the cabinet as for the sectors of the opposition and the organisms of human rights, that immediately went out to question and to judicialize the measure.
The harshest criticism came from the friendly fire of Elisa Carrió who, true to her style, spoke out against a government turn towards fascism. Some sectors of society think that we are in tune with an international context that favors hard-line positions against crime, and there were comparisons with the speech of Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro. Internally, the criticism revolved around the opportunism of the measure.
To analyze these issues, we spoke with the political leader and former national director of relations with provinces and municipalities, Sebastian Aurucci.
The official publication of the protocol brought a lot of controversy. Do you think it is right for the government to move forward in this way?
I understand that yes, because the published resolution is within the framework of the powers that Minister Patricia Bullrich has because it is an internal regulation of the federal forces. It would have been better if the protocol had been announced in the context of the approval of the new penal code, but the preliminary draft of the reform could not pass this year through Congress and the executive has been working for months on these modifications so that the police can have a clear framework of work.
What do you mean by a clear framework? Was the current code and protocols not enough?
Think that each force had its own protocol and in some cases the police could not use the weapon if the offender did not shoot first. There were many years of doctrine that held that the policeman had to fulfill his duty to provide security to people but under the accusatory gaze. Previous protocols were nonsense if the goal was safety. Therefore, the new code being discussed includes a modification of Article 34 where it specifically speaks of the responsibility of police officers who are performing functions. With the current code the policeman who uses his weapon is framed in legitimate defense, but that is absurd because if the policeman wanted to defend himself he would not put himself in danger in the first place to fulfill his function, it is a contradiction. With this it seems to me that the government is giving the message that it wants a police force with the capacity to fight crime and that the progressive left sectors do not like it because they justify crime as an act of social justice. Notice that it was said that this protocol was to suppress with lead the protests of the workers?
Precisely because of this and other points like not giving a loud voice or shooting a fleeing criminal, many argue that it is illegal: that it authorizes the police to repress without respecting human rights.
It is false. Nowhere is this authorized as the norm, and its first article makes it clear that the police must at all times comply with the duties imposed by law, and that the use of the weapon is only as a last resort or in the face of danger to life. The pretensions to assimilate the exceptions contemplated in the regulation to an authorization to kill are precisely intended to generate the idea that the government does not respect human rights. In addition, it must be explained to people that this does not exempt the police from being investigated by the justice system in the event that an excess is found. With regard to the legal system, I do not see how a regulation that does not seek to modify any higher standards and that is governed by the principles established by the United Nations for the use of weapons can be illegal. Moreover, with this protocol, the life of a criminal facing the police is not in danger, it just has to be surrendered. Surely many will like the idea more than the fact that crime has an advantage. It is clear that there is a discourse that prefers to argue about the potential risk of police action, but avoids talking about the real consequences suffered by victims of crime and their families and see no potential risk in a criminal fleeing to justify police non-intervention. That's why I say the message is clear, if you endanger others and defy authority, the responsibility is yours.
But I insist on this because Judge Gallardo declared it unconstitutional...
First, it should be made clear that it is for the City of Buenos Aires because Gallardo does not have federal jurisdiction. Secondly, I don't see how an abstract norm can be declared unconstitutional before a formal act by the city government. As I understand it, the judge asked that any protocol respect article 34 of the city's constitution which asks to be governed by the principles of the UN. On the other hand, there is a clear political intention on the part of the opposition and the sectors of the progressive left to link the fight against crime with the idea that the government seeks to repress social protests. Regarding the protection presented by legislator Myriam Bregman before Judge Gallardo, it seems to me that it follows the line of the left front and I don't want to talk about it punctually because I don't know it, but to assimilate workers to criminals when you say you defend them is to see it with a psychologist. Social problems are solved through politics and in these cases the police have the specific function of maintaining order while exercising the right to demonstrate, but in no case is the use of lethal weapons allowed.
But not only in the city, the governor of Santa Fe does not adhere to the protocol because he considers that with the current rules is sufficient and the governor of Buenos Aires does not adhere either...
They're different cases. Lifschitz does not adhere because he says he does not need it and protocol is only a response to a society that became more receptive to a discourse that privileges, according to him, the use of violence. But he says it from Santa Fe, one of the most dangerous cities, in addition to having the city of Rosario taken over by the narcos. I repeat, there are sectors of politics that feel comfortable accepting that the crime is out there and that their inaction is justified by their respect for the law and human rights. That is why it is uncomfortable, and even more so at a time when elections are coming, that the national government has gone from having policies against insecurity that are reactive and place the accusing finger on the police to active security policies where the police fulfill their function within a clear legal framework in order to provide security to society. With respect to the case of Buenos Aires, the main issue is that Governor Vidal has been fighting since she took office to purge a provincial police force that was partly complicit in the crime. I believe that to date there are more than 13,000 exonerated. It seems logical to me that he takes his precautions and privileges to advance first in having a reliable and capable force.
And does the international context influence the protocol? It is said to be the fruit of the Bolsonaro effect.
I don't think so, because this protocol has been analyzed for months. In addition, "international context" would imply talking about the different challenges that States have when it comes to providing security, such as the case of France, which prepared its forces against terrorism and now faces urban unrest, or Mexico, which has to rethink the fight against drug trafficking and the use of its armed forces in the face of massive assassinations. What I do see in common in that context is that governments concerned about security adapt their standards to provide effective responses to the threats they face.
So the Bolsonaro effect doesn't exist?
It exists in the social imaginary that demands security, but let's think that Bolsonaro has not yet assumed the presidency; therefore, what is happening in Brazil today is the fruit of existing laws and norms. Here the real danger is that society does not clearly see the institutional limits. That is why protocol is so important: because it makes the limits clear. I do not see Argentine officials celebrating the death of a criminal, it would be a very bad message for society, but I do believe that it is a gigantic change to institutionally support the fight against crime. In addition, Brazil has a homicide rate 6 times higher than Argentina and there is much ignorance about how its security forces operate. They have another concept of order and there is no ideological backing for the "bandits" as they call the criminals in Brazil.
This week there was a case where people were shouting at some criminals arrested by the police, how do you see this situation different from what happens in Brazil?
rom my own experience I can tell you that in Argentina we could not adopt the criteria for the use of legitimate violence that Brazil has. They are more identified with the idea of imposing order and society accepts that there is a battle between good and bad, and in that fight the means used by the police are the necessary ones. It is normal to see shootings in the public streets that generate deaths from stray bullets or to see the BOPE (Special Operations Battalion) enter the favelas directly to execute drug traffickers. The idea of order and danger go hand in hand for the Brazilian because he accepts the generalized use of violence. This seems to me more the proposal of Congressman Olmedo than that of the government, because we are more aware and, although we have the same demand for security, society demands a stricter control framework. What I want to tell you is that for years Brazil has coexisted with these levels of insecurity and violence and that is why the political discourse is understandable.
Beyond the differences you mentioned, here we also have a problem with insecurity, isn't that just an electoral argument?
It's not just a speech. In Rio de Janeiro, a candidate (I think it was Paez) won the mayor's office by promising to apply a policy he called "Shock of Order" to regain control of the city. The guy complied and it was chaos, a war between police and mafias that lasted five months. All the improvement of public order came down with the economic crisis making it clear that when the problem is social the police cannot solve it by force: even the police were on strike. Another serious case was when the BOPE, with the help of the army, intervened in the most dangerous favelas giving the narcos 48hs to surrender. They were implacable with those who did not surrender and wanted to resist or flee and although later they installed the UPP, police pacification units, and security improved, the general framework did not change and today the neighbors live in a violent context. Here this discourse is only that because in practice our society wants security, but not at any cost. I see it more like Olmedo's proposal: a minority sector of society thinks that giving free rein to the police does not bring danger to them, but it does not, it unleashes an open conflict that in our country mobilizes progressive sectors and ONG´s, something that does not happen in Brazil.
Is it going to be a campaign issue for the government?
Surely it will be a strong argument in the next elections, but it seems to me that Patricia Bullrich took an important step with the protocol to show that there is an effective commitment to provide security and not just a speech, and on that the president agrees. The difference in Olmedo's case is that his speech can be more extreme because he doesn't have to deal with the consequences of applying any security policy. In the case of the government it is more complex because in the face of the elections no mistake can be allowed. What I see is a positive scenario for the government if in what remains until the elections it can show progress in security issues because society is going to accompany a tough proposal, but within the institutional framework, because it is going to consider it viable in practice.