Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is Violence On the Rise in Argentina?

The question of security continues to rise here in Argentina, with more fervor in the last few weeks as a string of violent crimes have shocked the nation. Last week, former national soccer team player Fernando Cáceres was shot in the eye while teenagers tried to steal his car. An Argentinian actress’ home was recently broken into, and when the invaders saw her and recognized her, they apologized but said they had to eat. Two police officers were killed this week, and a public prosecutors house was broken into in the upscale neighborhood of Recoleta in Buenos Aires. According to the Buenos Aires Herald, 14 policemen have been killed since the beginning of the year.

The situation looks pretty bad, and when you throw in the fact that subway and tram employees have been on strike and disrupting transportation in the city, and protests in one form or another seem to be occurring all the time, you might think the country is on the bring of collapse. Many Argentinians think their country is dangerous, but in my eyes, it’s not devolved so badly just yet. I imagine that eventually we'll get to a point like in the movie "PCU" with Jeremy Piven and the anti-protesters protesting, "We're not gonna protest, WE'RE NOT GONNA PROTEST, WE'RE NOT GONNA PR..." You get the idea.

Obviously with my experience in Ecuador, I have a slightly different look on security than most people. Especially travelers who are merely passing through for a few days and only hitting up the touristic areas. And it would be wrong of me to say that Buenos Aires is totally safe, but in that same breath, what city doesn’t have violence and crime? Every time I check the Boston Globe there is an article about some kind of violence or trial based on violence that previously happened.

When talking to Argentinians and telling them that Ecuador is pretty dangerous, they are surprised and ask if it’s more dangerous than here. I tell them absolutely yes, and they are still surprised. Maybe it’s a narrow mindset that makes them think only their country could be dangerous, but they really have no idea. While walking down a street in Buenos Aires, I might be able to sense that it’s not the safest area, but I don’t have nearly the same amount of alarm that I would in Quito or Guayaquil. Not a chance. The trick is to not let my guard down too much, because it’s once you get too comfortable in a place that you get lazy and don’t pay attention to clear signs. And I still know people here who have been robbed at knife point.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on this situation and see if the country responds to the increasing crime or if it sinks further with it. It’s certain that the citizens are at least outraged from the thought of it getting any worse, and looking for someone to reverse the trends. Either way, I’ll be here reporting on it.

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