A march demanding justice in the case looking at the murder of 14-year-old Brian Aguinaco last December saw its mood change radically two hours after starting after news surfaced that the only suspect charged directly of his murder, a 15-year-old, was declared to have legal immunity due to being a minor and was released from custody.
The accused, also named Brian, had been caught in Chile days after the failed robbery attempt that ended up in Aguinaco’s death. 13 days later, the Government put the suspect on a flight to Peru, where he will be released to family living there.
Another suspect in the case, a 26-year-old known as “Yum, El Bostero” (the Boca Juniors fan in English) was detained on December 30 and has remained in custody. He has yet to formally be charged for the events, but considering that he was driving the motorcycle when the shots that killed Brian were fired, it’s not likely he’ll be charged with direct manslaughter.
“What upsets us is that two hours before the march they release him.” Brian’s uncle, Maximilaino, told Infobae. He went on to say that the family learned about the events through the media. “We hoped he would at least be kept in a correctional facility until age 18,” he added. Brian’s family had called the march on social media and one of its wain requests was for the suspect not to be freed.
When speaking to press at the march, the family’s lawyer explained the reasons given by the judge to grant the suspect’s release: “He explained that since minors can’t be charged until age sixteen, he couldn’t hold him for more than 10 days. He couldn’t do anything but let him go,” he said.
That exact fact, that Brian’s alleged killer was under 16 sparked a conversation about what age is considered appropriate for people to be tried as adults in this cases. Shortly after the events, the Government announced that it would kick off a formal debate — which has already been going for the past several times, mostly after similar events — precisely over the possibility of lowering this age from 16 to 14.
The initiative was met with varied reactions from key figures across the political spectrum. Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, who had come out to speak in its favor, reiterated her stance after the minor was released.
Bullrich said she felt “powerless” after the suspect’s release and assured that “a teenager who kills knows what he or she is doing.”
“We worked a lot to detain him, and it troubles me to see that killing [someone] has no consequences. I have been fighting for a [functional] juvenile criminal system and I think that it is not good that we still have impunity,” she added.
Another member of Brian’s family spoke along the same lines and said that “the only consolation we could have would be for the law to be passed.” Brian’s parents were put at the forefront of the movement supporting the initiative.
At the same time, other political actors firmly opposed to even begin a debate, arguing the solution to the country’s crime problems — insecurity has always been Argentines’ main concern when the economy is not going through a crisis — doesn’t begin to be tackled by having a larger demographic able to be put in prison. But by promoting reforms to the educational system and taking measures towards a more inclusive society.
One person who spoke for the pro-education argument was Deputy Margarita Stolbizer. Shortly after the debate took the political spotlight, she took to Twitter to claim the measure would be “populist and demagogic.”
“It would have been good for the President to start the year with the intention to improve high schools rather than putting more kids in prison,” said Stolbizer, who days later compelled Macri to call to extraordinary sessions in Congress to discuss the initiative. For now, however, everything is limited to conflicting arguments. A potential formal discussion seems far from starting any time soon, regardless of its current place at the center of the conversation.