Beating the heat, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich landed in a wintry Washington this week to meet with US officials for strategy sessions in the broader fight for national security and against drug trafficking. As the G20 host country, Argentina has also sought international support in preparation for the summit.
Accompanied by Vice Minister Gerardo Milman, the group attended meetings at the US State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Joined by the newly-minted Argentine Ambassador to the US, Fernando Oris de Roa, the delegation met with Republic Congressman Hal Rodgers, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Affairs, the entity in Congress that dedicates cooperation funds to Latin America. Argentina hopes to leverage its G20 position as well as its warmer relationship with the US for more funding this year from the previous $700,000.
Throughout the meetings, US officials identified the Triple Frontera (triple frontier border between Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil) as an area for continued monitoring. Milman told Infobae that US officials “expressed satisfaction” with the current developing plans in Argentina and “the momentum the country is giving to the anti-terrorism and drug trafficking agenda.”
Benjamin Gedan, Director of the Argentina Project at the Wilson Center, spoke to us more on this part of Argentine-US relations: “For the United States, counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism appear to be the top priorities in this relationship” adding that “security cooperation between Argentina and the United States has remained excellent in the Trump era.”
These issues are integral to the relationship between Argentina and the US. Separately, Presidents Macri and Trump have highlighted national security and counter-drug trafficking on their agendas, so it makes sense that this would be an easy area for these countries to strengthen their bonds.
Gedan went on to say that “despite the relentless attacks by the White House on its own law enforcement institutions, the Department of Justice, FBI, DEA, and related agencies have stellar reputations globally, and their know how is rightly sought after.”
Desde la base de Quantico, en la Academia del FBI, reforzamos la cooperación para seguir promoviendo fuerzas federales dedicadas a la investigación criminal y a un nuevo paradigma en análisis y fusión de datos. pic.twitter.com/zKJNREraJV
— Patricia Bullrich (@PatoBullrich) 8 de febrero de 2018
— Patricia Bullrich (@PatoBullrich) 9 de febrero de 2018
Indeed the Macri administration has shown it is committed to enhancing cooperation with the US on matters of security. Bullrich told Clarin US officials expressed particular concern about Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian group in that area, and urged Argentina to relay the information to the other countries in the region so that “they all have the same outlook.”
The Security Minister underscored that the Macri administration terminated the Memorandum of Understanding that former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner signed in 2013 with Iran regarding a joint investigation into the 1994 AMIA terrorist attack. Bullrich added that Iranian influence in the country has diminished over the years. Both the US and Argentine officials agreed on continued monitoring and an increased exchange of information between their intelligence and security agencies.
However, Internal concerns have produced criticisms within the country regarding methods used in both Argentine national and local armed forces. As the Argentina Project notes, Bullrich has been accused of strong-armed tactics in policing, and not all are alleged by political opposition, suggesting that “Argentina could use a healthy debate about a potentially expanded role for the military in domestic security, the rules of engagement for police, and how to balance the rights of protesters with quality of life considerations. But human rights should be part of the conversation.”
Bullrich will continue on to Miami, where she will tour the Southern Command military base with Defense Minister Oscar Aguad. The Argentine ministers will meet with officials from the US Department of Defense responsible for security cooperation for Central and South America. The Macri administration has flaunted the common interests in this facet of its relationship with the US, and only seeks to enhance cooperation in the future.