Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced Monday the launching of operation “Guard Watch” with the deployment of 6.000 border guards throughout the Greater Buenos Aires with the purpose of combating the insecurity wave and putting an end to the rash of illegal occupation of open spaces by organized squatters.
“Consisting of 6,000 Border Guard officers along with 443 patrol vehicles, Operation ‘Guard Watch' arrives to battle the organized crime within the 24 districts of the Greater Buenos Aires”, announced the Argentine president on national television.
The operation has an estimated investment of 150 million pesos (40 million US dollars) and will take effect from January first on.
Angry neighbours in the capital and in metropolitan Buenos Aires have been confronting organized squatters who have taken over open spaces “with the passivity of authorities” leading in some cases to confrontations with sticks, stones and iron bars.
The worst incidents a week ago left three killed and hundreds injured when a mob of squatters marched into a 130 hectares open park to the south of Buenos Aires. The confrontation also has a political ingredient since President Cristina Fernandez is not in talking terms with the Conservative (and 2011 presidential hopeful) mayor of Buenos Aires Mauricio Macri.
When Mrs Kirchner denied support from special forces to clear the area believing it would sink Macri’s reputation, the decision backfired because it was seen as a green light for hordes of squatters to march on to other open spaces, clubs and abandoned factories increasing furthermore the almost panic situation in some areas of metropolitan Buenos Aires suffering the consequences of rampant, virtually uncontrolled ever more audacious crime.
“This measure does not mean that the Border Guard will stop watching our borders and defending our national sovereignty said the Argentine president. This is part of the security forces joint operation policy this government implemented back in 2004.
Furthermore, Mrs Kirchner thanked the collaboration of the Border Guard or Gendarmerie, as 9,910,000 people live in the Greater Buenos Aires (9,000 square kilometres) according to this year's national census. Such number represents almost 25% of the country's population.
After the latest insecurity incidents, including the many land grabs around the city and now at the suburbs, the President remarked that the root problem here is social inequity and not poverty, but it's not only inequity, we must not forget about the existence of organized crime. Being poor doesn't mean you are a criminal.
The President also took some distance from those saying that the country is submerged in an insecurity wave: An unsafe country is one in which unemployment rate climbs to 25%, and population is not granted access neither to education nor housing. That's unsafe, and that was the country we found in 2003.
Every time that the ones in power made the population believe that security was above everything, including respect for each other and human life, we ran into bad things, too bad things.”
The latest reports from Buenos Aires indicate that a sports club, Albariño Social Club in Villa Lugano, has worsen as squatters refuse to leave and neighbours are counterattacking with a series of protests and road blockades. Likewise, land grabs are multiplying within the heart of Buenos Aires. Next to the capital’s main railway station, Retiro, inhabitants from a near by slum or “misery village” as they are called in the Argentine capital, have overtaken some train and railways lands next to their settlement that according to the latest census in ten years has trebled population to over 25.000.
The Argentine press reports that late Monday no eviction orders had been submitted.
The deployment of forces follows the recent decision to create the Security Ministry for which Nilda Garré (former Defence Minister) was appointed. Garré has already stepped up to her new position and rapidly brought some changes mainly the beheading of the Federal Police, Argentina’s main and better organized law enforcement agency.