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Macri to up jail terms in new ‘War on Drugs’

 President Mauricio Macri speaks during the unveiling of his anti-drug plan yesteday at Tecnópolis.
President Mauricio Macri speaks during the unveiling of his anti-drug plan yesteday at Tecnópolis.
President Mauricio Macri speaks during the unveiling of his anti-drug plan yesteday at Tecnópolis.
President, backed by Massa, Lorenzetti and allies, unveils new plans to fight trafficking

Vowing to tackle the “scourge” of drugs that “kills” Argentina’s children, President Mauricio Macri unveiled what he called a “war on drug-trafficking,” as the president echoed rhetoric first uttered by then-US president Richard Nixon, some 45 years ago.

Launching a cross-party national programme to tackle the issue, named “Argentina Without Drug-Trafficking,” Macri was flanked at an event by several top ministers from his Cabinet, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti, Renewal Front leader Sergio Massa and many other governors and political leaders.

The president declared that the nation was facing a “must-win” battle and said his government’s programme illustrated “a real commitment” to stamp out drug use. He also hinted that efforts would be targeted at schools, saying his administration “needs to start working with children in their early childhood” regarding this matter.

“It’s there where we must win this war and work toward social inclusion and inclusion in the workforce, these are areas in which we have a lot to do,” he stressed.

“The scourge of drugs captures our children and ends up killing them,” said Macri, who was accompanied by Let’s Change Cabinet ministers Patricia Bullrich, Germán Garavano, Juan José Aranguren and Marcos Peña, as well as Vice-President Gabriela Michetti and Buenos Aires province Governor María Eugenia Vidal. Nearby, Lorenzetti and Massa, among others, sat watching.

The government’s statements and press releases on the issue, however, were less forthcoming with details. According to one statement, the programme unveiled yesterday seeks to “eradicate (the use of) paco (cocaine paste)” and to intensify the battle to try to halt the spread of distribution centres and the so-called “kitchens,” where such drugs are produced.

Although the government did not refer to specific measures, the statements also said the administration would seek to increase punishments for those involved in drug-related crimes. In another briefing, the Let’s Change government said it would look to increase the deployment of federal and provincial security forces in operations throughout the country targeting criminal gangs involved in drug-trafficking.

Cross-party support

Questioned about his presence at the event, Renewal Front Leader Sergio Massa said that the country needs “a plan in the struggle against drug-trafficking that bypasses party distinctions,” saying yesterday’s announcement was “an important step that joins together pro-government and opposition politicians.”

One of the most prominent guests in attendance was Ricardo Lorenzetti, who appeared together publicly with the president for the first time since the Supreme Court annulled the implementation of natural gas hikes.

In his speech, Macri stressed that the government was ready “to work together” against drug-trafficking, a message some saw as a bid to mend fences with the nation’s highest tribunal. “We are all here together committed to an idea,” Macri said, pointing at Lorenzetti.

The president wasn’t beyond all party politics however. Macri criticized the former Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration, saying that “unfortunately drug-trafficking grew in Argentina after the denial of the problem by the state.”

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said that “an Argentina without drug-trafficking will change everything in the battle against drug-trafficking” and confirmed that Let’s Change will seek to “increase the penalties” for those involved in narcotics crimes.

Rights groups ‘concerned’

After the programme’s launch, rights groups quickly voiced concerns about the details and rhetoric of the plan, picking out the government’s usage of the term “war” to describe efforts to tackle a social affliction.

“The problems regarding drugs can’t be assessed only as security issues to be attacked,” said a statement from the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS). “Presenting the problem this way justifies the war-like response that leads to dealing with criminal organizations with the most violent means possible”.

Yesterday’s announcement comes two days after the 30-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark “Bazterrica” ruling, a date chosen by more than 500 respected legal voices to call on the government to redraw its policy on narcotics and end the so-called “War on Drugs.”

In total, more than 550 Argentine magistrates, judges and lawyers called for wholesale reforms based on human rights.

As the Herald reported on Monday, the group seeks a fresh approach, which includes decriminalization, the end of forced anti-drug treatment to users and the creation of policies focused on risk reduction.

The Supreme Court’s watershed declaration said the prosecution of individuals for possessing narcotics for personal consumption was unconstitutional.

Herald with DyN, Télam

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