Politics

New Security Minister signals big policy shakeup

9th January 2020

By Luciana Bertoia

New Security Minister signals big policy shakeup

Alberto Fernández has shown a strong turn from the security policies implemented by his predecessor Mauricio Macri during his first month as President. With an anthropologist appointed at the key Security Ministry, the new government has signalled a move away from the tough-on-crime approach of Patricia Bullrich by restricting the use of weapons, digging into the inner workings of the country’s federal forces, and calling their actions in sensitive legal cases such as the death of AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman into review.

</p> <p><a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/12/12/an-in-depth-look-at-alberto-fernandezs-cabinet">Sabina Frederic</a> is the fourth woman to take over the Security Ministry since its creation in 2010. Two women led the area during the presidency of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner previously, and Bullrich did so during the four years of Macri&#8217;s presidency. During the Kirchnerite era, Frederic was an advisor on Security and Defense. An anthropologist, researcher for the Conicet agency and university professor, Frederic also oversaw the criminal policy teams of the Instituto Patria, a think tank created by Fernández de Kirchner after leaving the government in 2015.</p> <h2><strong>Undoing Bullrich’s protocols</strong></h2> <p>On Christmas Eve, Frederic eliminated most of the resolutions signed by Bullrich in recent years.</p> <p>In 2018, the Macri administration had authorized members of the federal forces to fire their weapons with increased discretion if they were in “imminent danger”. The protocol was approved after a police officer shot an 18-year-old in the back after he assaulted and stabbed a tourist in the City neighborhood of La Boca.</p> <p>Last year, in the months prior to the presidential elections, Bullrich had also passed other resolutions that were harshly criticized by human rights organizations, in what some saw as an attempt to seek approval from <a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/06/20/miguel-angel-pichetto-macri-right-wing-bolsonaro">conservative voters</a>. Macri’s minister allowed security forces to discretionally request IDs from people traveling on public transport, implemented a voluntary civic service with Border Guard squads for young people who do not work or study, and authorized the purchase of electric Taser guns.</p> <p>These four measures were repealed through a resolution signed on December 24 by Frederic. Not everyone in the ruling coalition agreed with the decision, however, with Buenos Aires province Security Minister Sergio Berni, often seen as more tough-on-crime, <a href="https://www.pagina12.com.ar/237509-sergio-berni-a-favor-de-las-pistolas-taser">saying</a> Tasers could actually be a useful weapon.</p> <p>Frederic decided to repeal the resolutions after meeting with human rights organizations and groups that denounce police brutality, such as CORREPI, at the Security Ministry, all of them strong detractors of Macri’s crime-related policies.</p> <h2><strong>A new rhetoric</strong></h2> <p>In a <a href="https://www.infobae.com/politica/2019/12/24/la-ministra-de-seguridad-sabina-frederic-considero-que-gendarmeria-tuvo-responsabilidad-en-la-muerte-de-santiago-maldonado/">radio interview</a> on the same day the protocols were eliminated, Frederic showed a massive rhetorical turn when compared to Bullrich’s time in charge as well. The new minister stated that the Border Guard was responsible for the death of the young artisan Santiago Maldonado, which took place as officials were evicting protestors from a roadblock in Chubut province in 2017.</p> <p>Frederic’s predecessor continues to argue that the Border Guard acted correctly and accuses human rights organizations of having turned the force into a scapegoat, part of a broader policy of standing behind the actions of officers seen throughout Bullrich’s time in the ministry. Over the past month, the country&#8217;s highest criminal court has ordered the continuation of the investigation into what happened to Maldonado. The family of Maldonado asked the Supreme Court to order an investigation into whether he was a victim of forced disappearance before his death.</p> <p>Frederic was also critical of the Border Guard’s 2017 expert report on the investigation into the death of Alberto Nisman. Contrary to what was said by the Supreme Court&#8217;s medical forensic body and by Federal Police experts, the Border Guard maintained that Nisman was beaten, drugged with ketamine and then killed in the bathroom of his apartment four days after filing a complaint accusing then-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of trying to cover up the <a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/07/18/macri-points-finger-at-iran-25-years-after-amia-bombing">attack on the AMIA</a> by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Iran. The Border Guard&#8217;s analysis was used by Federal Judge Julián Ercolini to label Nisman&#8217;s death a homicide and to indict the members of his security detail along with the computer technician who allegedly lent the gun that killed the prosecutor.</p> <p>The new minister of Security announced that she will review how the investigation was conducted. Diego Lagomarsino, the technician who was indicted as a necessary participant in Nisman&#8217;s death, claims that the result of the expert report was revealed before the analysis started, suggesting that it was biased. According to the Ministry, an administrative review will be held to understand how the expert report was carried out and what could have failed.</p> <p><em>The Essential</em> asked the court whether this review could have an impact on the legal case. Court sources explained that the indictment had already been confirmed by the Federal Court of Appeals, but they did not rule out that the review may have an impact when the case is sent to trial.</p> <h2><strong>Intelligence agencies</strong></h2> <p>In an interview with <a href="https://www.pagina12.com.ar/236780-sabina-frederic-hay-que-instruir-a-la-policia-para-que-no-ha">Página/12</a>, Frederic announced that she wants to turn the Federal Police into an investigative agency similar to the FBI. To do this, Frederic will be welcoming some of the staff who used to work at the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI).</p> <p>Following on one of his <a href="https://gettheessential.com/politics/2019/12/12/president-and-vp-call-for-unity-in-adversity-at-inauguration">first announcements as President</a>, Fernández declared the intervention of the secret services for six months and designated prosecutor Cristina Caamaño to carry out a remodeling of the agency. Caamaño also served as the number two of the Security Ministry during Fernández de Kirchner’s era.</p> <p>According to the first surveys, Caamaño found that 1405 people work in the AFI. Sixty percent of them joined during Macri&#8217;s term. It is likely that many these people will be dismissed in the coming weeks, sources at the agency told <em>The Essential</em>.</p> <p>In the coming months, Caamaño should also propose that a significant portion of the AFI agents be transferred to the criminal intelligence area of the Ministry of Security, as ordered by President Fernández.</p> <p>Frederic also plans to reduce the ministry&#8217;s contact with foreign agencies. During her administration, Bullrich had shown a close international alignment with the United States.  The then-minister held a ceremony before leaving the ministry to thank US Ambassador to Buenos Aires Edward Prado and the various agencies for their cooperation.</p> <p>

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Luciana Bertoia

Luciana Bertoia is a journalist specialized in judicial, political and human rights issues. She has published in Ámbito Financiero, Página/12, the Buenos Aires Herald and the International Justice Tribune.