Justice Minister Germán Garavano and Security Minister Patricia Bullrich Spearhead the government's initiative. Photo via Telam

The Government is still firm in its intent to start a formal debate over how to comprehensively reform the juvenile criminal system, which would include as its most resounding aspect the possibility of lowering the age in which people can be tried as adults when committing a serious crime from 16 to 14 years old.

In order to do this, Justice Minister Germán Garavano called in 80 experts — including specialists in criminal law, lawmakers from opposing parties, representatives from NGOs dedicated to the issue and Security Minister Patricia Bullrich — and proposed that the discussion could center on eight main talking points. The age in which people can be tried as adults is unsurprisingly set to be the most controversial topic. At the end of these surely lengthy debates, should consensus be reached, a group of experts would be tasked with drafting a bill.

The eight topics the debate will be built around

  • Early approach to the issue
  • Alternative measures to deprivation of freedom
  • Felonies and sanctions that go in accordance with the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Detention conditions that promote social reincorporation
  • A system of permanent collaboration among the different sectors of the State involved in the criminal system — the Security and Justice Ministries, among others
  • An improvement in the information system
  • The age in which people can be tried as adults when they commit serious crimes

According to Clarín, Justice Ministry representatives intend to have the debate on the last issue towards the end to avoid the possibility of it becoming an obstacle to discussing the others. Should consensus not be reached about it, they intend to send two different bills to Congress — the integral reform on one and lowering the age alone on the other — so its legislators can have the last word.

Besides the opposing reactions the initiative itself generated throughout the political spectrum, the moment it will be debated is also proving to be a matter of conflict even among members of the same parties and within the Macri administration.

Bullrich and Garavano, the two ministers spearheading the initiative, have opposing stances on reform. The Justice Minister wants the proposal to be debated in Congress after October’s mid term elections, so as to avoid political campaigns from damaging the conversation. In contrast, his counterpart in the Security Ministry intends to kick off the debate as soon as the legislative year starts in March.

Members of the Renewal Front, led by Deputy Sergio Massa, went to the extent of demanding extraordinary sessions be called to debate it in Congress now. Massa has always been a supporter of the talking point that is set to generate the most controversy. In fact, a more tough on crime policy was one of his main rallying cries during his 2015 presidential campaign.

Representatives of the Victory Front (FpV) and UNICEF have already anticipated their rejection to the initiative.