On March 1st, when the legislative year kicks off in Congress, President Mauricio Macri is set to announce his administration’s intentions to open the debate about reforming Argentina’s Criminal Code.
This announcement is planned to take place during the delivery of the traditional “State of the Nation” address before Congress. One year after the commission tasked with this project began its work, the first draft is reportedly ready and has been sent to the Ministry of Justice, led by German Garavano, to be reviewed. Should it be passed exactly as it is right now, the new Criminal Code would introduce changes in significant areas, such as which convicts are eligible for parole, the criteria for judges to grant house arrest, and drastically increasing sentences for public officials who have been found guilty of corruption crimes, among others.
The following are the most important – though still only potential – changes:
Corruption: As mentioned above, the bill intends to drastically increase the sentences for public officials found guilty of corruption crimes. Currently, they have relatively low sentences that allow those found guilty to be let off the hook, as the current Criminal Code establishes that felons who get less than three years in prison don’t actually have to serve time (because, you know, logic or whatever). Today, people found guilty of crimes such as racketeering and negotiations incompatible with the public office can get sentences ranging between one and six years, while embezzlement of public funds will get them between one month and three years.
The initiative would increase the sentence range of the first two crimes to between three and 10 years – this means that, should a public official be convicted, they would almost certainly go to prison (“almost certainly”! Isn’t that great?). Also, if the official holds a higher office position, this range would increase to between four to 12 years. Officials eligible for this conviction would be: the President; the Vice-President; the Chief of Staff; Cabinet Ministers; Provincial Governors; the Buenos Aires City Mayor, Vice-Governors; the Buenos Aires City Deputy Mayor; District Mayors; National, Provincial, and Buenos Aires City Lawmakers, and members of the Municipal Council.
Moreover, the bill would also increase the amount of time during which the felon would be banned from holding public office from two to six years for the crimes previously mentioned. Finally, this reform would consider that being the front-man for a crime of the kind is also a crime which deserves a similar sentence.
Parole: The bill aims to increase the number of crimes that make a felon ineligible for parole. Besides repeat offenders, those convicted for murder, kidnapping, human-trafficking, torture, forceful disappearance, terrorism and sexual aggression won’t be able to get out of prison before fully serving their sentences.
Also, in the case of sexual offenders, the bill proposes that they continue to receive rehabilitation treatment and to be electronically monitored for up to ten years after getting out of prison.
Drug-trafficking: Considering the fact that the Security Ministry led by Patricia Bullrich has made fighting drug-trafficking a priority, the bill now adds drug-trafficking to the Code and increases the sentence range of the already existing crimes. “People who plant, grow or stash plants or seeds apt for the production of drugs will get sentences ranging between four and 15 years,” the draft reads. However, it doesn’t specify whether there is a determinate minimum amount with which the law would consider a person is guilty of drug trafficking. (In other words, whether someone who has a plant for personal consumption would fit that description).
The manufacturing (of synthetic drugs), production and selling of drugs would have sentences ranging between five and 20 years, while the heads of international organizations dedicated to this activity would get a special kind of punishment: life in prison.
Crimes Against Humanity: Crimes such as genocide, the forced disappearance of people, war crimes and crimes against humanity – the four crimes described by the 2002 Rome Statute – won’t be reached by the statute of limitations. This is already the case, but it would now be included in the Code.
House Arrest: The bill includes the possibility for felons to get house arrest and be monitored by an electronic device, as a way to tackle overpopulation in prisons.
This is so far what we know President Macri will most likely be announcing when the Legislative year begins on March 1st (AKA when Congress gets back to work). In the meantime, things could change since nothing is set in stone yet.
Also, expect a lot of debate in both houses.