Ten days have passed since riots first broke out in the Argentine province of Cordoba following a police strike to demand higher pay. Since then, police strikes and subsequent looting spread across 20 of Argentina’s 23 provinces before dying down yesterday, according to La Nacion. The Buenos Aires-based daily notes that a total of 12 people have died in the resulting violence, and that the conflict persists in four provinces and in parts of the Buenos Aires metropolitan area.
As The Guardian reports, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez first blamed the police strikes as a ploy by her political opponents, but as violence continued to spread it became clear that provincial police have real grievances related to their base pay. Several governors have struck deals with police, while others are still negotiating. At least four governors have refused to negotiate as long as the strikes continue, however.
In some areas, the public has lost patience with provincial authorities and security forces alike. According to local press, some 15,000 residents of the northwestern province of Tucuman took to the streets of the provincial capital last night to counter protest the police strike. Demonstrators also gathered in the central plaza to demand the resignation of Tucuman Governor Jose Alperovich, a member of Fernandez’s party.
The national government, for its part, has remained critical of the protests. Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich told the press yesterday that President Fernandez was in contact with governors of the affected provinces, and that the situation was under control. He also defended the government’s decision to continue with planned celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Argentina's return to democracy, and blamed the security crisis on police “extortion.”
This sentiment has been echoed by elements of civil society. The Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), for instance, issued a statement on Tuesday denouncing the police strikes as “extortive actions” and calling on law enforcement authorities to adopt negotiating methods that do not endanger citizen security. According to the human rights group, “these episodes show that the design and practices of the institutions responsible for the security of our country are still not in keeping with the rule of law.”
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