A tourist was almost robbed at gunpoint while he was riding a bicycle throughout Buenos Aires. Little did the thief know that his victim was recording his ride with aGoPro helmet camera. The tape has been uploaded to YouTube and has since gone viral, accumulating more than six million views in less than a week.
While thankfully no one was injured and the local police have arrested the perpetrator, the incident highlights how internal security remains a problem inArgentina. In the final year of her presidency, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner must focus more resources to quell the crime wave that is sweeping the country.
Crime and punishment
Alexander Hennessy, a Canadian citizen, is part of the show “Global Degree,” in which a group of young people are trying to visit 195 countries in 60 months. The group has already travelled throughout various Latin American states, like Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru. Upon arriving to Argentina, Hennessy and group mates went for a bike ride throughout Buenos Aires, with Hennessy placing a GoPro camera on his helmet.
While biking through a neighborhood known as La Boca, a man in a motorcycle rode up to Hennessy and, in broad daylight, pulled out a gun. The tape shows the robber demanding in Spanish that Hennessy give him his backpack, but the Canadian does not understand. At one point, Hennessy leaves the bicycle, thinking that that is what the robber wants; however the criminal got off his motorcycle and began chasing Hennessy, demanding the backpack. Eventually the thief realized that they were attracting too much attention and left.
The final moments of the tape shows Hennessy and his group of fellow travelers biking to find a police officer. The Argentine media has reported that the criminal, identified as Gaston Aguirre, has been arrested.
The video quickly went viral and now has over six million views while the Facebook page of “Global Degree” received various posts from Argentine citizens apologizing to Hennessy for his ordeal. Meanwhile, Aguirre’s wife said that her husband “regrets” what he did.
A drop in a sea of crime?
The incident has become a springboard for Argentine citizens to critique the country’s level of insecurity. Apart from critiquing President Kirchner, other targets are Sergio Berni, theSecretary of Security, andMauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires.
Given the lack of confidence in both the government and law enforcement agencies, there has been a rise of vigilante justice. In one extreme case, this past March David Moreira, 18, was beaten to death by a group of people after he allegedly stole a purse from a woman.
Two cities where the situation is particularly problematic are Buenos Aires, a city of eight million people which has several underdeveloped neighborhoods, known as “villas miserias” (“misery villages” or “chabolas”). The other city in trouble is Rosario, known as “the capital of crime” in Argentina.
To be fair, the Argentine government has tried to improve the situation. This past April, Daniel Scioli, the governor of Buenos Aires province, decreed a “public security emergency” in Buenos Aires in order to carry out a plan to improve the security environment. The plan entails using funds to beef up the ranks of law enforcement agencies and acquire new equipment. Meanwhile, Secretary of Security Berni presented 350 new vehicles to the media this past Friday, September 19, which the federal police will have at its disposal beginning this December.
Additionally, President Kirchner has critiqued vigilantism. In a recent speech she declared, “violence always creates more violence.” The Argentine head of state’s term will end in 2015 and she does not want her legacy to be that she left the country in a security mess. Unsurprisingly, the country’s security woes are being exploited for political objectives. Sergio Massa, an opposition congressman and a presidential hopeful, has declared that the country needs “a government that will uphold the law.”
As a corollary to this analysis, it is worth highlighting that Hennessy’s video shows the criminal, Aguirre, holding a gun and waving it at the Canadian. In March, Buenos Aires Governor Scioli declared “for a long time I’ve said that we need to establish a system to control weapons […] if there are no weapons, there are no dead people. Getting rid of weapons and drugs, we reduce the problem.” It will be interesting to see if the Hennessy incident does anything to increase the likelihood for some kind of gun control policy in Buenos Aires.
As for Hennessy, he and his “Global Degree” fellows have pledged to continue their global tour. Hopefully the incident in Buenos Aires will be the only time that their safety is in jeopardy, yet this is unlikely considering that several Latin American states, not just Argentina, face internal security crises.