Argentina police

Argentina President Mauricio Macri's announcement of a national security emergency underscores both the public’s growing concern regarding crime and the new government’s determination to stop it. But some critics are already saying the president has gone too far.

Argentina's presidential office outlined several new measures that will be implemented under the national public security emergency announced on January 19, including the creation of a law enforcement cabinet and the authorization to shoot down drug planes.

The new anti-drug office, the Cabinet of Human Security, will concentrate on attacking the growth of organized crime in urban areas, most notably Rosario, a hotspot for drug violence in Argentina. Authorities were recently forced to transfer leaders of the Los Monos drug gang from a Rosario jail to a federal prison outside the city following a shootout between criminals and security officials that is believed to have been an attempt to set the gang leaders free. The heads of Los Monos were reportedly continuing to oversee the gang's drug trafficking operations from behind bars. 

In addition to the Cabinet of Human Security and the shoot-down authorization, the government plans to install radars along the country's northern border in order to gain "efficient control" over this frontier region. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Macri’s decision to elevate the fight against transnational crime will probably win public favor due to the perceived increase in drug trafficking activity in Argentina, but some detractors have voiced concern about this new approach.

Horacio Verbitsky of the Center for Legal and Social Studies questioned what unintended consequences might come from “border control, the militarization of anti-drug efforts, the hidden introduction of the death penalty and the deployment of yet more security officers to impoverished neighbourhoods.” Political figures have also directly criticized the president, saying he overstepped his bounds by authorizing shoot-downs via an executive decree. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

Government officials have fired back, with Security Minister Patricia Bullrich defending the government’s decision to shoot down suspected drug planes on local television. She noted that authorities will first try to intercept a suspicious aircraft and order it to land and that “the goal is not to shoot [down] the plane.”

One aspect that could get lost in the discussion is whether these new security policies will actually result in less crime and drug violence. Macri appears to be following through on his campaign promise of taking a tougher stance on crime than former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Whether this will improve or worsen Argentina's security situation remains to be seen.