In La Matanza, located about 25 miles west of Capital Federal, Victory Front Party mayor Verónica Magario ordered 40 new police patrol cars to have her name detailed onto them. Not surprisingly, Magario’s rather territorial looking political move has caused tension between administrations from the county of La Matanza of and the province of Buenos Aires, with some claiming the cars are out of regulation and cannot be used. Margario’s department defends her decision, however, saying there are no laws against the lettering, as the colors of the cars meet standards and the cars were purchased with county, not provincial funding.
Buenos Aires Province Security Secretary, Cristian Ritondo, says there “Lacks a signed agreement between the department and the community so the [cars] cannot function.” The department confirms that the cars are “Not in regulation,” and called out Margario’s actions as a “political ploy.”
Without a signed agreement, the department indicates that, among other legalities, the cars would not be fully covered by ART, the agency that compensates injured workers. For the agreement to happen, “there has to be a series of regulated procedures, among which the lettering is one more [thing].”
Despite the departments warning, photos and reports have already surfaced of the name-bearing police units on the streets of La Matanza.
Patrol cars can be paid for using city, provincial, or federal funding, but purchases from lower powers traditionally do not need to be approved by higher departments. The question at hand is whether the lettering actually breaks a regulation, which would require action from the provincial department. If it does not break written regulation, then the province’s demand for an agreement is a political aim to remove the Kirchner-aligned mayor’s name from the car.
Approved by the province or not, 40 more patrol cars with the same name detailing are planned for the La Matanza police department.
La Matanza cabinet chief Alejandro “Topo” Rodríguez, in an interview with La Nación, reports that there are no regulations restricting the mayor’s name from appearing on the vehicles when funding did not come from the province, and the cars are still easily identified as part of the police force:
“The patrol car follows the color scheme indicated by the province, blue and green… the institutional logo of the city says very large ‘Police,’ and the name of the mayor appears as it does in institutional pamphlets… These patrol cars were acquired with our own funds. They [the province] never gave us one.”
Rodríguez calls out a more political motive behind the province’s response to the new patrol cars: “[It is] a campaign to generate political conflict.” Considering Ritondo was the one who “anonymously” released photos of the cars, this may well be the case.
The María Eugenia Vidal administration, in theory, could stand to gain from division within La Matanza. As one of the stronger Kirchner districts in the Buenos Aires area and is home to an estimated million voters, it serves as a major challenging block to the Cambiemos party in the coming elections. A divided La Matanza may mean more votes for the center-right party alliance in the coming elections.
La Matanza might not actually be that divided after the scandal though. Reports from the ground indicate that the community’s response to the controversy could be showing more frustration than division: “They [the province officials] want to overshadow something that the mayor did because the province does not provide solutions and under-financed the county. Any party that does the job with its own funds gets to put their name on it. In Vicente López they also did this, and there were not so many problems.”
This could be relevant not just in the mid term elections, but looking further down the country’s political path too. In the case that former president Cristina Kirchner does not run for an office in the upcoming elections, Magario shows potential to become a major candidate for the party. Though, no candidacy announcements have been made at this time, many in La Matanza are left with a politically charged version of the age old question — “what’s in a name?”