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ARGENTINA | 14-12-2023 21:29

Bullrich clamps down on protest rights with new anti-picket protocol

Security minister delivers press conference outlining government’s harsh approach to protests cutting traffic; Outlining host of measures, including severe punishments she warns "there will be consequences" for those attempting to seize control of the street.

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich has presented a new hard-line anti-picket protocol assuring that the President Javier Milei’s government will make it stick.

“Law enforcement is not a halfway house – you either do or you don’t,” declared the 67-year-old at a press conference at the Security Ministry’s headquarters in Recoleta, Buenos Aires.

Bullrich, seen as a “hawk” with a firm hand, detailed the new procedures for security forces when faced with disturbances of the public order. 

“The aim of this protocol is to enforce the law and as the President says, 'Those who disturb the peace will pay for it,'” began Bullrich, adding: "On the other hand, looking after those who look after us by establishing in the protocol protection for the actions of the federal security forces.”

The minister made known "the protocol for maintaining public order" in the face of traffic cuts, detailing the sanctions for the groups making such demonstrations.

"Organisations who destroy will have to pay for the damage, overturning the garantista [soft] protocol of [earlier minister] Nilda Garré," she said at the end of her announcements, citing former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s former security minister.

Garré served from 2010 to 2013 and since her time in office, two governments have served full terms in office. Bullrich herself previously served as security minister between 2015 and 2019. She did not explain why the protocol was not changed earlier, not least during her period leading the portfolio.

 

Social leaders speak out

Following Tuesday’s announcements of emergency measures by Economy Minister Luis Caputo, several leaders of high-profile social organisations or picket groups had affirmed that they would stage street demonstrations.

"The forces will employ the minimum force necessary, which will be upgraded in proportion to the resistance," assured Bullrich at the start of the press conference. In that context she said that the four security forces, [the Border Guard, the Coast Guard, the Airport Police and the Federal Police] together with Penitentiary Service personnel would be the ones to intervene in cases of flagrant breaches of the law. 

She further revealed that federal forces would be acting in federal zones with the objective of freeing up traffic completely, adding that vehicles participating in pickets and not complying with certain norms (which the minister did not detail) would be confiscated.

Polo Obrero leader Eduardo Belliboni told Perfil that he had been expecting such announcements but warned: "What is certain is that the right to demonstrate cannot be overturned by a protocol or a decree, it is a constitutional right," adding: "Either they declare a state of siege, which also has to go through Congress or they undertake a constitutional reform."

 

Bullrich's announcements

  • "The four federal forces and the Federal Penitentiary Service will intervene against roadblocks and pickets, whether partial or total. Law enforcement is not a halfway house, you either do or you don’t and we will."

  • "The forces may intervene in accordance with the extant procedural codes or in the case of flagrant crimes." 

  • "It is very important to understand that the federal forces will act in federal zones with the provincial forces obliged to act in their areas of jurisdiction, working jointly."

  • "We are not going to take into account alternative traffic routes being provided. This means that if a main road is cut, that main road will be freed up."

  • "Action will be pursued until traffic is totally freed, employing the minimum force necessary, which will be upgraded in proportion to the resistance." 

  • "The authors, accomplices and instigators of this type of crime will be identified, as will vehicles and their registered drivers. All administrative infractions will be registered, proceeding to confiscate all vehicles not heeding traffic norms and whose drivers do not have the documentation they should."

  • Train stations will also be covered with the sticks and hoods of those trying not to be recognised by the security forces being seized from the persons travelling with that kind of material.

  • "The data of the authors, accomplices or partícipants will be remitted to the corresponding authorities and to the Inspección General de Justicia to see if those blocking roads have a social plan. This announcement does not correspond to me but should also be taken into account, above all by the instigators, trade unions and workers blocking a company."

  • "Environmental damage will also be notified to the judge competent in that jurisdiction. A permanent feature of these protests is burning things, which causes damage to the environment and those in the neighbourhood." 

  • "In the case of the participation of children and adolescents, the authorities competent for their protection will be notified, proceeding to sanction those who take children to demonstrations when they should be in school."

  • "The costs of the security operations will be invoiced to the organisations or individuals responsible. The state will not be paying for the use of security forces, the organisations or persons responsible will have to pay." 

  • "The Immigration Department will be informed of any foreign participants."

  • "A register of the organisations who participate in these protests and those who systematically act as spokespersons for this type of demonstrations will be made.

  • "Garantista protocol of Nilda Garré is herewith repealed."


 

– TIMES/PERFIL

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