Photo via El Nuevo Dia

The government announced it will kick off a debate over lowering the age at which people can be tried as adults from 16 to 14 years. According to press reports, the Macri administration intends to call in experts in the matter along with opposition members to discuss the possibility throughout the year and, should consensus be reached, draft a bill that would only be voted on by Congress in 2018, after this year’s midterm elections.

This possibility, which has already been debated in the past, came back to centerstage after the murder of 14-year-old Brian Aguianco, allegedly at the hands of a 15-year-old, Joel González, in the City’s neighborhood of Flores last December. A 26-year-old known as “Yum, El Bostero” (The Boca Juniors fan), has also been accused of committing the crime.

Brian Aguianco. Photo via Infobae
Brian Aguianco. Photo via Infobae

In an interview with Radio Nacional, Justice Minister Germán Garavano said the Government “began working last year alongside UNICEF and experts from all over the country to tackle the juvenile criminal system issue.”

“Regarding the age issue, there’s a debate about who needs to present the evidence in a case when the defendant is 15 years old and is very close to turning 16. Maybe, because of a formality, they will or will not have responsibility. That’s very arbitrary,” he said.

Garavano went on to say that the current law was “enacted during the dictatorship, and we have to modify it.”

“We think of a new law based on rights, responsibilities and obligations. Within this integral discussion, which focuses on how to deal with the youth, we are also going to discuss lowering the age in which people can be tried as adults,” he added.

Justice Minister Garavano. Photo via Youtube.
Justice Minister Garavano. Photo via Youtube.

Predictably, the announcement became the story of the day and generated opposing reactions. Several voices from the political spectrum came out to weigh in favor and against it. Security Minister Patricia Bullrich and the President of the City’s lawyers’ bar, Guillermo Lipera, were among those who support the initiative, while the Villa 21-based media outlet La Garganta Poderosa (The Powerful Throat) and National Deputy Margarita stolbizer are some who have already publicly rejected it.

After confirming that one of Brian’s alleged murderers is 15-years-old, Bullrich said that lowering the age “is a debt we have to face, because it’s very important that minors who are between the ages of 14 and 16 are prosecuted when they commit these kind of crimes.”

On his end, Lipera said in an interview with Radio Mitre that “today, a minor who is sentenced to a juvenile detention center comes out worse, as they are prepared to commit even more crimes.”

“Since the state is unfair at the time of setting sentences, only poor people who commit crimes go to prison. Because of that, the judge offsets the inequality established by the lawmaker by not following the law and sending the criminal back to the street,” he argued.

In Contrast, La Garganta Poderosa today published an editorial titled “young sentenced,” arguing that adults who take advantage of kids are really responsible and it is for these individuals that the Government should be discussing how to prosecute more efficiently: “police officers who use kids as drug mules, police chiefs who send them to steal, journalists who call them ‘piranhas,’ officials who don’t fully execute educational budgets, business-people who enslave them, publicists who alienate them, coast guard officials who torture them, border patrol ones who shoot them, priests them who abuse them,” reads a part of the powerful message.

Furthermore, National Deputy Margarita Stolbizer 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.”

This could prove to be a matter of conflict with Stolbizer’s new ally for the upcoming midterm elections, Deputy Sergio Massa, who during the 2015 presidential campaign made the an almost identical proposal.