President Macri has signed a presidential decree that authorizes the military to shoot down "hostile" aircraft. Photo via Taringa

Remember when back in December, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich declared a security emergency to fight drug trafficking and secure border controls? Well, President Mauricio Macri signed a decree making that state of emergency official starting today and lasting until the end of the year. What this particular decree brings to the national emergency party (seriously, everything is in a state of emergency right now) is permission to shoot down planes. That’s way more fun than extra beer, right?

The decree basically outlines a series of measures directed at fighting drug trafficking and organized crime, but the most outstanding part is by far the authorization of “the use of force via the System of Aerospace Defense to shoot down and/or destroy invading carriers that have been declared hostile [is authorized].” Pretty hardcore stuff.

Shooting down “hostile carriers” is supposedly intended to be a last resort and falls within the jurisdiction of the military. According to the decree, a hostile carrier is defined as “all aerial transportation/s, manned on unmanned, which, by its characteristics [and] within the context of the situation and the requirements of the mission, implies a probability of damage or danger to the vital interests of the Republic.”

That leaves plenty of room for interpretation as “danger” and “vital interests” may soon become magic words for “shoot it down.” Good thing the drone that filmed beautiful footage of Buenos Aires did so before this decree.

Gendarmerie deployment guarding downtown Buenos Aires' courts after the capture of the Lanatta brothers and Victor Schilacci. Photo via La Voz del Interior
In the context of the security emergency: Gendarmerie (Border Control) deployment guarding downtown Buenos Aires’ courts after the capture of the Lanatta brothers and Victor Schilacci. Photo via La Voz del Interior

The approval to shoot down planes has been sharply criticized by the opposition. Former presidential contender Margarita Stolbizer of the Progressive Party took to Twitter this morning, stating that:

“Approving via presidential decree a measure allowing planes to be shot down is a huge institutional error that could have irreversible consequences. What makes it worse is that the matter wasn’t even discussed.”

Nicolás del Caño, national deputy for the Leftist Workers’ Front (FIT) and also a fomer presidential candidate, took to social media as well to express his opposition to the measure:

“First kill then ask questions. Another one of Macri’s “republican” measures.”

The head of the Security Committee, Gerardo Milman, defended the decree stating that there is a protocol to follow:

“When one has all these rules to follow, the chances of actually having to shoot down a plane are practically nil.”

Policies allowing planes to be shot down are not uncommon in Latin America: Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Peru and Venezuela all have laws that permit the shooting down of aircrafts in a purported bid to curtail drug trafficking. The practice is controversial and in some cases, it is not even put into practice: in Peru, shoot-downs were banned after a civilian plane was downed by mistake in 2001.

In Argentina, the previous administration was against the law, mainly on the grounds that it implied “a death sentence without a prior trial,” in the words of former Defense Minister Agustín Rossi.

Other measures in the decree include:

  • Replacing the old “North Shield” with the “Border Operative”: one of the main objectives in the fight against drug trafficking is preventing drugs from entering the northern part of the country and the new border operative is set to be permanent and well resourced, improving the border control’s radar.
  • Revamping security systems in transport systems: for example, luggage identification will now be compulsory on all means of transportation, including buses. This is supposed to prevent drug dealers from claiming that the suitcase full of drugs “wasn’t theirs.”
  • The power to call former federal police, border control, coast guard and airport security agents from retirement, unless “[they have been] convicted for crimes against humanity, are currently indicted or have been suspended for disciplinary reasons.” Assuming they are in good health, too, I’m guessing: Mel Brooks would have a field day with policemen with walkers.
  • The creation of a Human Security Committee to coordinate the resources and jurisdictions of each body within the defense system.