a diverse collection of travel photos and firsthand experiences while venturing across the globe. each destination has welcomed us with open arms and warm smiles, making us feel right at home. from argentina to utah - and thousands of miles in between - these are our visual memories of 'home'...just as we never imagined.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Report: National In-Security

This is a report based on current events in Argentina. Having studied Argentine politics and human rights issues, including personal research conducted here during the past six years, I felt the need to address this subject. Fears of insecurity have escalated here in recent months, and this report will hopefully shed some light on current social arguments.

In mid-1974, following the death of Juan Domingo Perón, his third wife (and now widow) was left in charge of the Argentine Republic as the first female pr
esident. Isabelita proved to be quite inefficient in her new role. As with several nations during the Cold War, Argentina was experiencing the rampant flood of leftist views and socialist tendencies. The conservative elite became greatly concerned over the chaotic state of the nation. Following riots, protests, and organized acts of violence, the military at last decided to overthrow Isabelita...and the democratic government of Argentina. The end of democracy came on March 24, 1976. The Dirty War had begun.

For the next seven years, military generals and foot soldiers contr
olled the nation with brutality and force in order to eradicate all elements of communism. Similar practices swept across South America - Brazil (1964-1985), Chile (1973 - 1989), Uruguay (1973 - 1985). Universities soon became targets for police raids as students were often dragged out by their hair...never to be seen again. Homes were often ransacked as family members were taken outside and forced into the infamous fleet of Ford Falcons. Soccer stadiums were converted into concentration camps and torture centers. Hospitals, now under military control, were often filled with desperate mothers in search of their missing newborn babies (many of which were secretly given up for adoption). Approx. 30,000 victims were killed and/or "disappeared" under the regime - a number still disputed today.

In 1978, Argentina hosted the FIFA World Cup of Soccer. Several nations did not participate in the tournament as a sign of protest against the human rights abuses inside Argentina. While Argentina did win the World Cup title at home, many still argue whether the gov
ernment "purchased" the championship in order to distract the world media (though Mario Kempes and others have denied such allegations).

In 1982, amidst civil unrest and economic turmoil, the Argentine government decided to strengthen its patriotic image by invading and reclaiming the Falkland Isla
nds from Great Britain (located 300 miles east of Argentina's southern coast). Underestimating Britain's power and potential for retaliation, the Argentine military suffered a devastating defeat. Lasting just two months, the war claimed 907 lives (649 Argentines). The military regime began to crumble. Democracy at last returned to Argentina with Raúl Alfonsín in 1983.

For the next several years, mothers and grandmothers of the "disappeared" would quietly march in front of the presidential palace of Buenos Aires. Still carrying black-and-white photos of loved ones lost, these women continue to meet each Thursday morning and ask the painful question, "Dónde Están?"

So, why do we mention all of this? Because next Tuesday - March 24th - marks 33 years since the Dirty War began. It is now a national holiday - El Día de la Memoria - reserved as a date that Argentines must never forget. So, how is this related to current events? Well, three decades later, social arguments still ensue over human rights vs. military rule in order to manage crime.

Mendoza is the nation's fourth largest metropolitan area wi
th an urban population under 900,000 in and around the capital. In 2007, there were 140 murders (*). In 2008, there were 125 murders (*). In addition, there have been a number of armed robberies and assaults with makeshift weapons. Private gated neighborhoods have been attacked. Hotel properties and patrons have been attacked. Department stores and banks h ave been attacked. Fine restaurants and diners have been attacked (some managed by fellow international expats). And just last weekend, six taxi drivers were attacked downtown.

The general outcry among local residents is that the government ignores the issue altogether. Promises are made to improve security...but such promises are broken a
nd forgotten. The police are often blamed for allowing such crime to continue...even though their presence is felt in and around the capital 24 hours a day.

People have started to take justice into their own hands, something I predicted months ago. A few wanted criminals have been chased down and punished by angry victims and neighbors. In fact, just last month, downtown shoppers had the chance to unleash some of that fury on one thief caught in the act. On the morning of February 16, three men attempted to rob a jewelry store along San Martín Avenue - Mendoza's main street (*). The owner chased them off, and while two men managed to escape, the third was detained by an angry crowd of consumers and severely beaten before the police arrived.

According to the online blogs and forums of major Mendoza newspaper
s, this is what needs to be done in order to control local crime. For many, criminals and delinquent youth will not stop their violent activities unless “public justice” is served. The local community is divided into two general ideas:

-Bring Back La Mano Dura (Heavy Hand): The only solution to
end the escalating crime wave is to use force…provided by a military and/or police regime . Capital punishment and quick arrests will decrease criminal acts of violence…similar to the Dirty War. An armed presence on every corner will return all things to order. An over-exaggerated focus on human rights has allowed young criminals to be untouchable, often released upon arrest thanks to the efforts and protection of human rights lawyers and government officials.

-Los Derechos Humanos (Human Rights): We must defend the rights and lives of all citizens. The Dirty War that once raged in Argentina and claimed the lives of tho
usands must not be in vain. Harsh punishment and military control is not the solution. We must help, fix, protect, and aide criminals and delinquent youth if we hope to save them. Government rule with an iron fist will only worsen the nation’s current condition.

Due to Argentina’s turbulent history with human rights – as described above – the current issue of insecurity is both heated and delicate. What lessons were le
arned in the 1970s? Is there a limit to human rights…especially for violent criminals? Is there a limit on public safety…or only on public justice? More importantly, how much longer will this go on…before one side crumbles?

Such concerns have stirred the hearts of proud Mendocinos in rece
nt months. Speak to them and they will tell you, “My Mendoza was not like this 10 or 15 years ago. We used to leave our doors unlocked. Now I have bars on my windows and razor wire on my fence. This isn’t the Mendoza I grew up in.” Tania and I have seen such crimes firsthand…almost experiencing it ourselves last winter. While no solution has been found, civil unrest and impatience is visible.

This week, a peaceful “march against insecurity” was organized in downtown Mendoza (*). I attended…and walked in the front line, along with the most vocal citizens stating their grievances and fears, some even carrying the black-and-white photos of loved ones lost…in recent months. Following a few short blocks along San Martín Avenue, the small group of 50 quickly grew into a passionate crowd of hundreds, chanting the slogan, “Pueblo Unido – Jamás Será Vencido!” Such marches are planned for the next few weeks in Mendoza…and Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Rosario, Mar del Plata, etc.

1 comment:

The Highland Hill's said...

we definitely pray for your safety...we hope things go well...but I'll agree we need to stop relying on the government and take care of our communities/wards/families...b/c if we wait for the government to do it...it will never happen...

Similar things are happening in the US w/ health care...everyone is waiting around for the govt. to take care of everything...even retirement...people think they deserve a free ride...

Take responsiblity I say and take care of what needs to happen...

Good for those customers who detained the criminals...I think if all criminals knew the public was going to come after them they might stop...

The military is not the answer...that is socialism in a form...and no one wants that...

Good luck down there...your blog was very well written. Amazing your talent w/ words. Love you guys.