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  HOME | Argentina

Argentine Government Rules Out Military Role in Drug Enforcement

BUENOS AIRES – The Argentine government on Friday categorically rejected proposals from two prominent politicians to use the armed forces to deal with drug trafficking and an accompanying increase in drug-related violence.

“We would commit a grave error if we involved the armed forces in the combat against drug crime and we would have a much more violent society,” Defense Minister Agustin Rossi told Radio America.

Bringing in the military “not only would not improve the situation, but would make it worse,” he said, citing the case of Mexico, where the militarization of the drug war that began in 2006 has been accompanied by soaring death tolls and an increase in human rights abuses.

President Cristina Fernandez’s administration has no interest in the idea of modifying the ban on army intervention in domestic affairs that was enacted after the brutal military dictatorship of 1976-1983, Rossi said.

The minister commented hours after the governor of Buenos Aires province, Daniel Scioli, urged a reconsideration of the ban.

“Certainly, at some moment we will have to examine, a little, the role of the armed forces, because it (drugs) is evidently a matter of internal security,” Scioli, a leading figure in Fernandez’s party, told media outlets.

Law enforcement efforts would benefit from “the collaboration of the armed forces,” Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, a presidential hopeful, told Radio Continental on Friday.

Macri, scion of a wealthy industrial family and leader of the opposition conservative Pro party, said he was “very worried” about the expanded presence of illegal drugs in the capital.

Several Argentine cities have experienced increases in violence attributed to conflict among rival drug gangs. Evidence has emerged that the criminal outfits have infiltrated law enforcement agencies, politics and the judiciary.

Fernandez’s administration announced Friday that the office of Security Secretary Sergio Berni will take overall charge of efforts to combat drug trafficking organizations.

Sedronar, Argentina’s existing drug enforcement agency, is to devote itself to prevention and treatment, the government said.

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