Argentina’s defense minister has rejected the possibility of deploying the military to combat the growing problem of drug trafficking, a wise move given the nature of country’s underworld and criminal networks.
Speaking to news agency EFE, Defense Minister Agustin Rossi said drug trafficking fell under the remit of security services such as the police, which were adequately equipped to face the challenge. According to Rossi, the military — particularly it’s training based on the use of lethal force — made it unsuitable for a law enforcement job and implementing such a policy would be a “serious step backwards.”
Rossi said such a policy had been implemented in other countries in the region without success. “Rather than improve the situation, it has worsened it and generated higher levels of violence,” he said.
Rossi’s remarks come in the wake of calls in Argentina to deploy the military to combat rising violence connected to drug trafficking, with the Governor of Buenos Aires Province and presidential hopeful Daniel Scioli recently branding drug trafficking an “internal security” issue which warranted the use of the military.
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The rejection of the use of the military goes against a regional tide of militarized policing. In recent years, countries including Mexico, Venezuela and Honduras have implemented such policies, and the ongoing security crises they still endure could be seen as vindication of Rossi’s remarks regarding their efficacy.
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However, while those countries may continue to be mired with grave levels of violence, whether the situation would be better or worse without military deployment is difficult to say. A much more coherent reason not to deploy the military in Argentina is the fact the criminal landscape is radically different from that seen elsewhere.
In all of the aforementioned countries, the use of troops was seen as a necessary resort in the face of rampant police corruption combined with deep rooted and heavily armed organized crime that frequently exert territorial control. While Argentina certainly suffers from police corruption, the trafficking networks are less entrenched, often run by foreigners and are relatively less violent, despite spikes in killings in areas like Rosario. In the face of this criminal challenge, an emphasis on effective police work and intelligence gathering — rather than putting boots on the ground — is far more pressing if Argentina is to avoid getting to a stage where military deployment becomes the last resort available.