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ARGENTINA | 23-01-2024 18:31

Killing of nine-year-old girl reignites debate on security in Argentina

Nine-year-old girl Umma Aguilera, the daughter of one of the police bodyguards of Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, shot dead on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

The killing of a nine-year-old girl, the daughter of one of the police bodyguards of outspoken Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires has reignited national debate on the battle against violent crimes in Argentina.

Youngster Umma Aguilera died in Lomas de Zamora on Monday from a bullet to the head while her parents, both in the police force, tried to escape in their car from an attempted mugging and were attacked from another vehicle, according to government sources.

The child’s father, Eduardo Aguilera, is a federal policeman who forms part of Bullrich's security team. 

The Police reported on Tuesday that a 22-year-old man had been arrested and said they are looking for three other accomplices.

“Umma was murdered cowardly, we’ll make them pay for the life they took. Criminals think they still live in the Argentina of impunity, but they’re wrong,” posted President Javier Milei on the X social network.

The slaying of Aguilera follows the violent deaths of two 16-year-olds in two incidents earlier this week, in Laferrere and Chascomús, also in Buenos Aires Province.

“Don’t let them say we have an iron fist. Having an iron fist is killing a nine-year-old girl,” said Bullrich, who announced the government would send a bill to Congress seeking to reform the Criminal Code and deliver harsher punishments for repeat offenders.

Argentina has one of the lowest murder rates in Latin America: 4.2 out of every 100,000 inhabitants, according to government data from 2022.

In mid-2023, insecurity was ranked as the second biggest concern among Argentines (38 percent), behind inflation (55 percent), according to a survey by Universidad de San Andrés.

An increase of murders and violent killing during robberies over the last few years has reignited debate about public safety and pushed the issue to the top of the political agenda.

Back in August, campaigning for the PASO primaries was briefly suspended for four days after the murder of an 11-year-old girl, who was attacked by two young men who took her backpack and beat her in the street in Lanús, Greater Buenos Aires.

Political leaders, social organisations and legal experts have regularly debated about the causes of the increase of common crimes, with potential reasons being the deteriorated socio-economic setting of ex-convicts, the lack of efficiency and proactive policing, corrupt judges and problems with the penitentiary system. 

Debate has re-opened in recent weeks about a potential push to lower the age of criminal responsibility from the current 16 years to 14 years. President Milei's justice minister trailed the idea last week and the libertarian leader's administration is planning to raise the issue once again.

Today, those convicted who are aged between 16 and 18 years of age are prosecuted under a separate Youth Criminal Liability Law. 

 

– TIMES/AFP

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