Last Updated: 2014-04-03
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BUENOS AIRES, April 3 (NNN-MERCOPRESS) -- Argentina's security secretary said that those who take justice into their own hands are “murderers,” referring to recent cases of lynching of suspected criminals, and which has caused a serious controversy among politicians and members of the Judiciary branch.

“They are not neighbors, we are dealing with murderers,” Sergio Berni told La Red radio in Buenos Aires.

Over the past 10 days, there have been 12 known cases nationwide of public beatings, and worse, of suspected attackers or rapists.

The most serious of the cases occurred last week in the city of Rosario, where a man was beaten to death by a group of residents after he is said to have stolen the purse of a woman who was walking along with her daughter.

“These cases must be condemned with the rigor of the penal code,” said the security secretary.

Berni acknowledged, however, that the public sometimes “gets fed up” and reacts in this way because many criminals, once they are arrested by the police, are then freed by the courts.

“I understand that society is somewhat fed up with the revolving door of justice but it would be inappropriate to use a lethal weapon to detain a cell-phone thief,” he said.

The outbreaks of vigilantism have sparked controversy between the government and sectors of the opposition, who blame the Cristina Fernandez administration for a lack of police oversight on the streets and for forcing citizens to defend themselves.

“If the state were absent, we would not have people arrested every day,” Berni said in response to that claim.

“Here there is a sector of the judiciary that does not want to work and another that doesn't have the procedural tools,” the secretary said, calling for politicians to put aside “demagogic discourse” in favor of working to solve the problem.

Argentines are fed up with a rise in crime, but many people are criticizing the vigilante attacks. They blame the outbreak of mob violence on what they say is overheated media coverage.

President Cristina Fernandez has called for a halt to such violence. No one has been arrested.

However presidential hopefuls, Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri and Deputy Sergio Massa have argued that it is precisely the absence of an efficient state that looks and cares for the people that has caused the no-man's land and current situation.

However Supreme Court Judge Raúl Zaffaroni stated that those who committed the lynching of alleged thieves “are not neighbors but murderers” and called for the “penal code harshness” to probe the case.

“What happened in the City of Buenos Aires is worrying but a group of neighbors does not represent the Argentine society, we are 40 million people,” the official stressed.

Likewise Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli (and presidential hopeful), has called for punishments to “stay within the law”, and urged people to ‘banish savagery’ from society, after the registered lynching of alleged thieves in Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Mendoza.

“The struggle for civilization has always been to fit punishments within the law and to banish savagery from society”, Scioli told reporters, aligning his comments with the statements made by Supreme Court Judge Raúl Zaffaroni and National Security Secretary Sergio Berni over the lynching cases. Zaffaroni described the lynching as 'premeditated murder'. -- NNN-MERCOPRESS