Argentina President Authorizes Shoot-Down of Drug Planes

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As part of a wider security package aimed at combating the growing presence of organized crime and drug trafficking in the country, Argentina’s recently-elected President Mauricio Macri has authorized the shoot-down of suspected drug planes. 

On January 19, Macri — who won Argentina’s tightly contested presidential election last November — sanctioned Argentina’s armed forces to take down “hostile” aircraft, a likely reference to suspected drug planes. 

The shoot-down provision was one of many security measures included in a government decree that declared a public security emergency throughout the country for one year. The decree also calls for a radar system along Argentina’s northern border, and revamping the security program known as “Operation Northern Shield,” first put in place by former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

It was the the shoot-down authorization, however, that generated swift criticism from Macri’s political opponents. Kirchner’s former defense minister, Agustín Rossi, called the shoot-down provision a “death sentence without a trial,” while former presidential candidate Margarita Stolbizer said on Twitter that it was an “enormous institutional error that could have irreversible consequences.”

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Despite backlash from Macri’s political rivals, the shoot-down authorization will play well with the general public, which has grown increasingly worried about Argentina’s burgeoning role in the regional drug trade. 

The president has previously criticized Kirchner’s perceived inaction against the rising threat of organized crime, and during his campaign Macri promised to be tougher on crime. Shortly after being elected, Macri pledged to send “a clear message” that authorities were going to “take control of the territory” in the hands of drug traffickers. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

Argentina joins a growing number of Latin American countries that have authorized the take-down of drug-smuggling aircraft, an interdiction tool that some anti-drug officials in the region consider to be indispensable.

Shooting down suspected drug planes is fraught with moral and legal dilemmas. But it appears many politicians are ignoring these concerns in the face of public outcry about violence and corruption, neither of which are addressed by shooting down suspected drug planes.

Peru, for instance, eliminated shoot-downs in 2001, after security forces mistakenly shot down a civilian plane carrying a US missionary and her infant child, among others. But last year, the Andean nation re-instated the shoot-down law amid concerns from government officials and the public that Peru was on the verge of becoming “a narco-state.” 

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