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All sectors condemn lynching episodes

Former Security Minister Arslanian blames ‘promotion of fear’ as one of the main causes

by Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Herald, 31-03-2014

According to media reports, at least five people suspected of robbery were lynched by angry mobs last week. One of the alleged burglars was beaten to death in Rosario while the other was repeatedly kicked Saturday in the Buenos Aires City neighbourhood of Palermo, while four others were attacked in Rosario in bloody events that took place over the last few days.

Officials and local politicians condemned the phenomenon and called it a step back to the Middle Ages.

“I think it’s just barbaric. It takes us back to a past that we thought we had forgotten,” former Buenos Aires province Security Minister León Arslanian yesterday told Nacional Rock.

Arslanian, an offical who served during the 2002-2007 Felipe Solá provincial administration, linked the social phenomenon to the political climate of the last months — specifically, to the strategy carried out by Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa to attack the new Penal Code bill draft on the grounds that its amendments were too lenient on criminals.

“It’s a grotesque thing to try and stir up public opinion by promoting fear,” Arslanian told radio programme El Fin de la Metáfora.

Across the political spectrum

Kirchnerite representatives and opposition figures clearly drew a line between the current lack of state oversight and the rise of these kinds of attacks.

“We’re surely witnessing a situation of lack of state presence, but this can by no means justify nor excuse anyone taking justice into their own hands,” Broad Progressive Front (FAP) national lawmaker Fabián Peralta told the Herald.

Peralta, a representative of the centre-left GEN party, lives in the Azcuénaga neighbourhood in Rosario, two blocks away from the corner where a group of people lynched 18-year-old construction worker, David Moreyra, after accusing him of stealing.

Moreyra fought his injuries for four days and died at a local hospital.

“We’re witnessing a domino effect, because people are taking the discussion over whether the people attacked were criminals or not,” Peralta added.

“But the very fact that a group of people decide to apply the death penalty — because that’s what it is — speaks of a true process of social deterioration.”

PRO party ally Patricia Bullrich showed her consternation, but stressed an absence of the rule of law.

“I think (lynchings) are a worrying and dangerous phenomenon, because it proves we’re living in a society with no rules or law,” Bullrich told the Herald.

The Unión por Todos representative said repeated lynchings were a “typical reaction” to people’s feeling of defencelessness.

“We need to get the situation back on track, people should feel safe and protection should not be about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” the national lawmaker said.

Politicians to blame?

Like Arslanian, Kirchnerite City lawmaker Gabriela Cerruti took aim at the heated political climate encouraged by Renewal Front politicians, who during the last week challenged the Penal Code draft bill, which had resulted from a consensus between Supreme Court Justice Raúl Zaffaroni, UCR representative Ricardo Gil Lavedra and PRO lawmaker Federico Pinedo.

According to Cerruti, Massa’s stance against the proposed regulations and his “populist” statements against reduced penalties and other alleged benefits for criminals were “the serpent’s egg” that ended in last week’s public lynchings in Buenos Aires and Rosario.

Lynchings are occurring “at a time when leaders, who should be sending an altruistic message, have placed themselves on the frontline of heavy-handed discourse,” Cerruti wrote on Twitter.

But the events of the last few days are probably part of a broader phenomenon.

Victory Front (FpV) lawmaker Victoria Montenegro said there were “a lot of causes,” with only one of them being “the current political climate.” In the end, however, she limited herself to “openly repudiate all acts of violence.”

“The case of the boy that was beaten to death in Rosario was the result of cowardly and murderous citizens,” Montenegro told the Herald.

“Take justice into their own hands should not be an option and this is the society we’ve been trying to build since the return of democracy,” she concluded.

Revenge and class hatred

On Saturday afternoon, writer Diego Grillo Trubba went on a Twitter rampage to express what had occurred minutes prior in the up-scale Palermo neighbourhood.

An infuriated mob “almost lynched a pickpocket,” the man wrote on his account.

“A big man wearing a security guard’s uniform was on top of a 16- or 17-year-old and would not let him go. Suddenly, one of the people from the mob comes in running and kicked the kid in the face,” Grillo Trubba said.

“Just so that I’m understood: a river of blood was coming out of his mouth. Most of the people keep saying he should be put to death.”

It took 25 minutes for police to arrive at the scene, the writer said.

The Rosario cases also struck a nerve in Santa Fe’s political world.

“People who took part in lynch mob were actually involved in murder,” provincial Justice and Human Rights Minister Juan Lewis warned yesterday.

“It’s a big mistake to resort to the lack of state presence to justify lynching — it was plain and simple murder,” he said.

Por Federico Poore

Magíster en Economía Urbana (UTDT) con especialización en Datos. Fue editor de Política de la revista Debate y editor de Política y Economía del Buenos Aires Herald. Licenciado en Ciencias de la Comunicación (UBA), escribe sobre temas urbanos en La Nación, Chequeado y elDiarioAR.

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