Demonstrations against crime surge spread all over Latin America

They began in Argentina early this year when a person who had his son kidnapped and murdered called on massive middle-class protests against authorities.
Conservative parties took advantage of the demonstrations. Now, Mexico takes its turn.

Crime surge in Latin America is a well-known consequence of pro-market policies boosted from Washington in the 90s. Unemployment rose to unprecedented levels in countries like Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay, leaving millions without any social care and no chance to come back to the labour market.

In this part of the world, neo-conservative policies became undoubtedly associated with corruption during the privatization processes of the last decade. At the same time, those who cheered the destruction of social ties –mostly middle and upper classes- now scandalize and head massive protest as victims of crime surge.

That’s the case of the 60-year-old Argentine engineer, Juan Carlos Blumberg, who had his son kidnapped and murdered and then, aided by the local right-wing opposition, mass media groups and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the man called on massive demonstrations to protest against crime surge. The case was then manipulated by the opposition to the center-left government of President Nestor Kirchner, and lost its initial force by now.

According to the last reports from Mexico, the North American country is following the same way of Argentina, though Mexico’s crime rates are far more worrying. There, a new leader called Eduardo Gallo, who had also lost his daughter after being kidnapped and murdered, is calling on Sunday on a demonstration against delinquency to raise the pressure on lawmakers for action to discourage the increasingly kidnappings.

The former hotel-chain manager said he wouldn't want the men who killed his daughter -after they collected $17,500 in ransom- to do what many others have done: either ply their trade from inside prison or escape with the aid of bribes.

President Vicente Fox took power in December 2000 promising to crack down on crime and improve a judicial system rife with corruption and ineptitude. The official number of reported kidnappings showed a slight decrease during the first three years of Fox's government, from 505 in 2001 to 438 in 2003. Mexico's new Federal Investigation Agency reported dismantling 48 kidnapping rings and saving 419 victims.

However, private security firms, beneficiaries of “crime surges”, say families do not report kidnappings, preferring to negotiate privately. Mexicans United Against Delinquency estimates that at least 16 "express" kidnappings -to force victims to withdraw cash from ATMs- occur in Mexico City daily. Others claim the figure could be as high as 80 a day.

Mexican and Argentine associations and foundations against crime call for more repressive legislation, but even refuse to consider the social crisis as one of the origins of the current situation. Furthermore, as in the case of Argentina, they also refuse to condemn police abuse that has already taken more lives than street assaults.

Hernan Etchaleco

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Author`s name Evgeniya Petrova