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ARGENTINA | 14-03-2024 11:00

Bullrich unveils new protocol for Argentina's federal forces, relaxes rules on use of weapons

Security Minister outlines new protocol for federal security forces, which will allow officers to shoot in order to prevent a criminal from escaping; "We don't want more Chocobar cases," declares Bullrich in reference to notorious 2017 incident.

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich on Wednesday unveiled new rules governing the use of firearms by federal forces, which she claimed would give agents "clear guidelines" in cases of "imminent danger." 

The new protocol for the federal security forces will empower officers to respond to violent situations and subdue criminals who resist or flee, said the official, who said agents were "very disoriented" by the current rules.

The announcement by Bullrich, a hard-line official who wants to be seen as tough on crime, comes amid a wave of narco-criminal violence in troubled Rosario, the city most affected by drug-trafficking in Argentina.

President Javier Milei’s government has decided to implement "a general regulation for the use of weapons by members of the Federal Security Forces," said the minister, who said the protocol would protect officers and “citizens who are in danger from an attack by criminals, delinquents, gangsters or drug-traffickers.”

The new rules, published on Thursday in the Official Gazette, repeals all previous ministerial resolutions and provisions, creating a single protocol for all federal security forces and their use of weapons.

Last month, Bullrich’s portfolio changed the rules of engagement for Prefecture (Coast Guard) officers, allowing them to use long-range firearms.

"It is imperative to have clear guidelines for the use of weapons by the forces and this is given when there is imminent danger," Bullrich argued at a press conference on Wednesday in Rosario.

Officers will be allowed to use firearms “to prevent the commission of a crime, when this crime is particularly serious and puts people's physical integrity at risk," she added. Weapons can be used “to detain a criminal when he resists authority or to prevent him from escaping” under the new rules.

Bullrich said that the security forces must "always identify themselves," except for when identifying themselves as such could put the lives of the officer or others at risk.

Bullrich revealed that her portfolio will soon receive taser electric pistols from the United States and is in the process of purchasing non-lethal Byrna self-defence weapons for civilian use.

The new protocol was issued just days after members of the Armed Forces arrived in Rosario to support federal and provincial security forces in a clampdown on drug-related violence in Argentina’s third-largest city.

Five shootings in recent days – which the authorities described as “acts of terrorism”  by drug gangs established in the area thanks to its strategic location on the Paraná River – have left the city in a state of fear and shock.

The move comes in a context of growing social unrest and frequent protests against austerity measures imposed by the Milei government to reduce inflation currently running at 276 percent year-on-year.

Seeking to justify the changes, the PRO party politician said that the government does not want “more Chocobar cases, in which it is being discussed whether he did things right or wrong."

Bullrich was referring to a notorious case in 2017, in which police officer Luis Chocobar shot dead an 18-year-old who had robbed an American tourist in Buenos Aires. The criminal was fleeing the scene and was shot in the back as he tried to escape.

Chocobar, who was found guilty of homicide and sentenced by a court to two years in prison in 2021, was hailed as a hero by then-president Mauricio Macri and Bullrich, who was also serving as security minister in the government of the time.

His case inspired the Chocobar doctrine, approved by Bullrich, which expanded the rights of police officers to exercise lethal force.

Following the incident, Bullrich imposed a new security protocol known as the ‘Chocobar doctrine,’ which expanded the rights of officers to exercise lethal force. 

It was repealed in 2019 by the following arrival of Alberto Fernández to power. His government introduced a new code based on international treaties that said police officers should “act in proportion to the seriousness of the harm, respecting and protecting human life.”

Bullrich said the reinstatement of her 2018 rules would allow the Judiciary to assess the innocence or guilt of federal agents who use firearms in situations covered by the regulations.

"With this [move] we are going to put an end to separate protocols,” declared the minister. “We are going to go all out against criminals, mafias and narco-terrorists in every corner of the country.”

 

– TIMES/AFP/NA

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