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Argentina relaxes use of firearms by police

Patricia Bullrich Bullrich, known for being tough on crime, has in fact reintroduced rules she first brought in during a previous stint as security minister in 2018 (Luis ROBAYO)
Patricia Bullrich Bullrich, known for being tough on crime, has in fact reintroduced rules she first brought in during a previous stint as security minister in 2018 (Luis ROBAYO)

Argentine President Javier Milei's government on Friday relaxed the rules around the use of firearms by security forces, allowing them to shoot someone to prevent a serious crime, or in self-defense.

In recent years, security forces "have risked their lives in a way that has reached a limit," said Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, unveiling the new protocol on Thursday, which was published in the government gazette Friday.

"We need to protect those who protect us."

Bullrich, known for being tough on crime, has in fact reintroduced rules she first brought in during a previous stint as security minister in 2018.

She did so after a policeman was charged in the 2017 death of an 18-year-old thief who was shot in the back by police while fleeing after mugging a tourist in Buenos Aires.

The officer was later found guilty of homicide and sentenced to two years in jail in 2021.

The re-introduced measures allow the legitimate use of firearms "when other non-violent means are ineffective", "in cases of self-defense or defense of others, and imminent danger of death or serious injury."

Security officers can also shoot "to prevent the commission of a particularly serious offense which represents an imminent danger to life or physical integrity."

The measures had been scrapped by the center-left government that took office in 2019 and replaced with rules obliging security forces to act "proportionally" when faced with a threat while "respecting and protecting human life."

Milei, 53, is a libertarian outsider and political newcomer who swept to the presidency on a wave of anger by Argentines furious with an economic crisis, and worsening crime.

Bullrich said the protocol will apply with immediate effect to nautical police, particularly on river borders in the north of the country where they are often faced with organized crime.

They will also be equipped with heavy weapons, she said.

Details on the rollout to other security agencies will be announced soon.

Sabina Frederic, the security minister who in 2019 ditched the measures, slammed the protocol as one which "enables the trigger-happy,", and gives the police, rather than the courts, the right to "define what is or is not a crime."

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