The police force from the province of Buenos Aires have ceased activities for the second day running on Tuesday to demand higher salaries and better working conditions for the beat in metropolitan Buenos Aires where criminality and insecurity are rampant.
The 90.000 strong force responsible for law and order in Argentina's most populated province, Buenos Aires, some 18 million of Argentina's 45 million, also complain they are overworked and without the necessary bio-security gear to ensure the compliance with the country's strict (six months) quarantine
Contrary to other countries, police are not unionized in Argentina, so protests are led by family members and retired officers and staff. However since in this case no political officials or the provincial Security minister Sergio Berni did not turn up to dialogue, as demanded by protestors, there was several attempts to take over the Strategic Center, where the leading surveillance and back up operations are concentrated.
The government of president Alberto Fernandez and the governor of Buenos Aires province Axel Kicillof had anticipated that on Friday they would announce an integral security plan to combat criminality in the metropolitan area which has become a no man's land and a political challenge with midterm elections in twelve months.
Daily killings with delinquents breaking in at homes in broad light, organized intrusion of abandoned houses and fiscal land to be occupied by families with children, soft magistrates and unwilling and overworked police reluctant to make evictions plus a percentage of rotten apples in the force, gives an idea why people in the province of Buenos Aires are more fearful of insecurity and crime than of the pandemic as in the rest of Argentina.
Ample television coverage of the criminal actions, including robbing on horseback, and even minors with guns shooting other minors to rob them of cell phones or brand sneakers in a province which is the political turf of the ruling Peronist coalition, has turned into a big, big problem.
And in effect when some details of the integral plan were leaked, things got worse, because it included new patrol cars, improved weapons and bio-security gear, better surveillance and communications equipment and even 10,000 rookies, but not a word about improved salaries. This helped to convince most of the force to join the protest action and some officers accepted to be interviewed by the media.
The officers complained people want New York police effectiveness but with salaries a tenth of what they make. It was also revealed that a Buenos Aires province police on the beat is paid 60% of their peers from the City of Buenos Aires, and they are demanding a similar income.
Apparently provincial authorities sent a test balloon of a 30% increase which was rejected point blank by the force demanding at least 50%. The provincial treasury fears that the police protest will trigger a long list of demands from other employees from the health, education and other security sectors. Likewise other provinces want a quick solution to the dispute because they fear a contagion of similar demands from their own police forces.
Wednesday early dawn the situation remained unchanged with patrol cars, flying the Argentine colors, surrounding the Strategic Center, and waiting for the Security minister Berni to turn up.
Protesting officers also rejected insinuations that the protest was politically motivated and demanded a written document that no officer will eventually be sacked for participating in the demonstration.