Wave of Lynchings Suggests Rising Distrust in Argentine Police

Angry mobs in Argentina have recently carried out a series of extrajudicial killings, pointing to widespread distrust in the country’s official institutions, thanks in part to numerous reports of police corruption.

A would-be thief who stabbed a customer at a street kiosk in the northern city of Avellaneda was beaten to death last week by a group of onlookers, reported La Nacion. A similar incident occurred at the end of June in the city of Cordoba, while a number of other cases have resulted in the hospitalization of the perpetrators-turned-victims, according to La Nacion.

These cases of vigilante justice come a little over a year after a dozen lynching attacks in the span of 10 days created national alarm.

Meanwhile, cases of police officers involved in drug trafficking is on the rise in Argentina, according to a separate report by La Nacion. In the last two and a half years, 37 police officers in the province of Santa Fe have been implicated in drug trafficking activities, the newspaper reported. Over 20 police agents in Buenos Aires and Cordoba were also charged with similar crimes during that time span. 

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The recent cases of lynchings — while admittedly few — nonetheless point to a lack of trust among Argentinians in state institutions to effectively mete out justice. “The poor perception of the justice system and the police generate these invidivual reactions that challenge the state’s monopoly on the use of force,” Diegal Gorgal, former Secretary of Security for Buenos Aires, told La Nacion. Local residents gave similar explanations for the wave of lynchings in 2014.

The growing number of cases of police corruption outlined in the La Nacion report is likely fueling this sentiment of distrust in law enforcement. Police corruption in Argentina is longstanding, but there are several indications police officials are becoming more involved in the country’s booming domestic drug trade.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

Allegations of official corruption extend to the country’s judicial system as well. Last September, the judge handling a landmark case against one of Argentina’s biggest homegrown criminal groups, the Monos, stepped down after he was photographed sitting close to a gang member’s family during a boxing match. 

High levels of corruption and impunity are also believed to be behind the high number of lynchings in Central America’s Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala). Vigilante groups in Mexico’s southwest state of Michoacan have been resisting criminal groups for years as a response to the government’s ineffectual security policies in the region.