(Left to right) Defense Minister Martínez, President Macri, armed forces chief Bari del Valle Sosa

Argentina's government is cooperating with the United States and Israel as it pushes ahead with an increasingly militarized approach to internal security, despite the uneven track record this type of strategy has had in other Latin American countries.

During an official visit to Argentina on August 4, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about the United States and Argentina's "revitalized efforts to cooperate in the arenas of security and peacekeeping," calling organized crime and drug trafficking "one of our priorities."

Kerry announced that the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs was "immediately" dedicating $1.5 million in assistance to Argentina to support a "law enforcement and criminal justice sector reform initiative." According to data compiled by the research organization Security Assistance Monitor, that figure is approximately equal to the total amount of US security aid to Argentina for the past three years combined.

Kerry also said that the United States had recently accepted "more than a dozen Argentine participants in the State Department's International Law Enforcement Academy," adding that "cooperation between us is absolutely going to intensify in the coming months."

2016-08-09-Argentina-PlanesIn another sign of increasing security cooperation between the two nations, the United States recently approved the sale of up to two dozen military aircraft to Argentina, similar to those pictured to the right. The $300 million package would be the largest US arms sale to Argentina in more than a decade, according to Security Assistance Monitor's data.

Kerry's comments come several months after US President Barack Obama traveled to Argentina for a visit that included the signing of several bilateral security cooperation agreements.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

President Mauricio Macri's administration has also been deepening its security relationship with Israel, La Nación recently reported.

According to unnamed foreign ministry officials cited by the news outlet, Argentina has established an agreement to share "sensitive information" with the Israeli government, and Security Minister Patricia Bullrich recently traveled to Tel Aviv to participate in a conference on cyber and internal security.

La Nación also indicated that Argentine officials have discussed security cooperation deals with their Spanish and Brazilian counterparts.

These developments coincide with an expansion of the military's role in Argentina's internal security scene, as exemplified by recent cooperation between the military and police on security operations in border areas.

At an annual dinner event on July 31 celebrating the armed forces, President Mauricio Macri echoed previous statements calling for the military to play a greater part in the fight against crime.

"Argentinians need an active participation by the [armed] forces," Macri said in a speech reported by La Nación. "In order to grow, to develop ourselves and to generate employment, there has to be peace and tranquility."

However, Macri's administration has been careful to cast the military in the role of providing support to law enforcement, rather than directly carrying out crime-fighting operations. According to Defense Minister Julio Martínez, Argentine law prohibits the armed forces from assuming a direct role in internal security.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Macri administration's apparent desire to deepen cooperation with Israel and the United States on security matters raises a number of concerns, especially when viewed in conjunction with the ongoing militarization of the country's anti-crime efforts.

For one, militarized security policies like the US-backed Plan Colombia and Merida Initiative have far from perfect track records. In fact, some evidence suggests that deploying the military to fight crime can actually increase violence, rather than making citizens safer.

Additionally, members of the military are trained to eliminate opposing forces. They are not typically trained to protect civilians' rights or to carry out complex investigations that lead to arrests and prosecutions. Some security experts have suggested that this could be the reason that militarized internal security strategies are often accompanied by human rights abuses.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Security Policy

In the Argentine case, such concerns take on added relevance given the country's apparent desire to cooperate closely with the United States and Israel -- two countries whose internal security forces have repeatedly been condemned for their use of militarized policing tactics that critics say lead to violations of citizens' rights. Argentina's history of at times brutal military dictatorships may also be relevant. 

Nevertheless, there appears to be substantial support among the Argentine people for more militarized security policies. Perceptions of insecurity are on the rise in Argentina, a factor that likely contributed to Macri's election given that a "tough on crime" approach was a key plank in his campaign platform. Moreover, a 2014 survey by the Latin American Public Opinion Project found that more than 60 percent of Argentines supported the idea of involving the military in anti-crime operations.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...