Argentina's Soaring Crime Rate

By Pedro, Jorge San | Contemporary Review, January 2005 | Go to article overview

Argentina's Soaring Crime Rate


Pedro, Jorge San, Contemporary Review


THESE days Argentines not only have to cope with their economic malaise but also what they see as its most worrying by-product: a violent crime wave that has swept the country and encouraged some to take the law into their own hands.

The problem is not confined to big cities. In early March the mayor of Villarino, a little-known rural district lying 700 km south of the capital Buenos Aires, found much sympathy when he declared he would stand by those who shoot criminal intruders.

Mario Ahumada, a 61-year-old Villarino landowner echoed the mayor: 'If I see a stranger on my land, I'll shoot him', he declared. And the Villarino Cattle Breeders' Association admitted that its members had been organising armed night patrols since mid-2002, when the economic crisis was hitting hard.

Argentina's economic crisis forced President Fernando de la Rua to resign in December 2001 amid street protests, triggered by severe recession, high unemployment and a general bank account freeze that turned even his middle-class supporters against him. The economy worsened in 2002 when a financial arrangement that had kept the peso pegged to the US dollar at a rate of one-to-one since 1991 was abandoned, and the exchange rate soon reached the three pesos per dollar mark.

Most citizens blame the worsening crime wave on the financial crisis. But a recent academic paper by Diego Gorgal, lecturer at the Buenos Aires-based Argentine Catholic University, says the seeds of the current problems date back further--to social changes that followed IMF-backed structural adjustment policies introduced between 1990 and 1993.

'The qualitative transformation came hand-in-hand with new conditions in the labour market, the dismantling of the welfare system and, moreover, the development of an informal and, in most cases, criminal economy that took advantage of a retreating state', says Gorgal.

Government statistics show that crime fell 73 per cent between 1988 and 1992 in Buenos Aires but rose 286 per cent between 1992 and 1995. In 1995 the former President, Carlos Menem had been re-elected amid international praise for achieving low inflation, privatising state-run companies and the currency peg. Argentina, Menem liked to boast, had become part of the First World.

By contrast to the sharp rise in the early 1990s, between 1999 and 2002 the crime rate only grew 5.25 per cent. 'It had grown so wildly that levelling off was the most likely outcome', says Hernan Olaeta, an adviser at the Justice Ministry.

Gorgal says spiralling crime rates can be found across the region. 'Latin America is currently the world's most violent area, measured by its homicide rate', he explains.

Hector Recalde, an expert in labour law who advises trade unions, has no doubt about the link between the 1990s economic changes and increasing crime. He shows a chart representing the official unemployment, poverty and crime rates--the upward trend of the three curves almost exactly match.

Argentina's undersecretary for criminal policies Mario Ciafardini admits 'there is a strong positive correlation between extreme poverty and the crime rate', but rejects the idea that people in poverty turn to crime, saying probably a mere one per cent take up crime.

Nevertheless, the starkest face of Argentina's worsening poverty is found in the Buenos Aires' slums, which grew by 114 per cent in the 1990s to 113,000 people. Slums lack the most basic public services, including law enforcement, and have become safe havens for criminal activities.

Elena, a 27-year-old single mother who lives in La Cava, the capital's largest slum, says: 'Sometimes you become very depressed. This is not a place to raise two children, but for the time being I have no choice because moving out is too expensive. I can't stand the drug dealers anymore and I can't stand the fact that the last thing my children hear before falling asleep every night is gun shots'. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Argentina's Soaring Crime Rate
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.