Argentina Targets ‘Barras Bravas’ Soccer Gangs

Authorities in Argentina have created a registry that reserves them the right to deny soccer fans admission into stadiums, as part of an effort to cut down on hooliganism and violence associated with the country’s “barras bravas.”

Argentina’s Security Ministry announced the creation of the national registry on January 28, reported AFP. The ministry will work with the Argentine Football Association (Asociación del Fútbol Argentino – AFA) to obtain information about the fan bases of each team, reported Clarin

The measure is intended to reduce violence at soccer matches and debilitate the feared soccer gangs known as “barras bravas.” 

“The primordial and immediate objective is to put an end to the violence in soccer and the problem of the barras bravas,” the ministry said in a statement. 

This is not the first time that President Mauricio Macri has shown he is willing to take on the barras bravas. Just weeks after winning a hotly contested presidential election in November, Macri ordered his new security minister to “dismantle these mafias that are the barras” by creating an elite task force modeled after the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

InSight Crime Analysis 

As former head of the popular Argentine soccer club Boca Juniors, Macri understands as well as anyone that the barras bravas must be confronted. This term, which stretches as far back as the 1970s, initially referred to fans who congregated in order to show their loyalty to their teams by waving flags and setting off fireworks.

But over the years these rabid fan groups have reportedly become increasingly involved in organized crime, and violence has become a central characteristic of their collective identity. According to non-governmental organization Salvemos al Fútbol (“Let’s Save Soccer”), there were an average of five soccer-related deaths per year from 2000-2009. Between 2010 and 2014, that figure doubled.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Soccer Crime

However, the recent actions targeting the barras bravas fit into a larger security pattern that is beginning to emerge under the Macri administration, which is rule by decree.

In mid-January, Macri’s office declared a nationwide security emergency that would last for one year. This state of emergency included the authorization for the armed forces to shoot down suspected drug planes, which drew swift criticism from civil society groups and political opponents concerned about executive overreach. 

“To approve by decree the shoot down of planes is an enormous institutional error that can have irreversible consequences. Much worse without debate,” former presidential candidate Margarita Stolbizer wrote on Twitter at the time. 

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