Pubdate: Sun, 13 Sep 1998
Source: Reuters


BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - President Carlos Menem in a newspaper
interview published Sunday threatened a crack down on violent crime in
Argentina, dismissing possible human rights concerns.

``Zero tolerance. A hard hand. There's no other way ... Some human
rights organizations may protest, but I believe that a criminal has
more protection here than a police officer or the people,'' he told
Clarin newspaper.

Argentina's federal police have responded to concern at rising crime
in the capital by putting more police on the streets in an operation
code-named ``Urban Spiral.'' Menem said that would mean 5,000 more
officers on the streets.

He blamed the rise in crime on organized gangs, which he said had more
sophisticated arms and communications than the police. He compared the
crime wave with the leftist guerrilla activity of the 1970s and the
spiral of violence that led to the military coup of 1976.

Asked about Argentina's history of police brutality, not only during
the military regime of 1976-83 but in recent years too, Menem
responded: ``We can't blame the police for everything.''

Argentina has been largely spared the drug and guerrilla violence of
many other countries in Latin America, as well as the urban crime and
violence of neighboring Brazil.

But a sharp rise in unemployment to 13.2 percent is considered by
church leaders and the opposition to have contributed to an increase
in violent robberies.
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Checked-by: Patrick Henry