Things are heating up between Argentina and its neighbors, as the Argentine government moves towards implementing tougher border and immigration controls. Yesterday, in La Paz, the Bolivian Chancellor called upon the Argentine ambassador to ‘please explain’ Wednesday’s creation of a new National Border Commission, as well as shedding light on the comments Security Minister Patricia Bullrich made on radio linking foreigners to crime in Argentina.
On Tuesday, Bullrich had published tweets stating that “there are foreigners who set themselves up in this country and build a narco-trafficking network.” And, in an interview on Radio La Red, she argued the Government needed to “reorder relations with Paraguay, Peru and Bolivia,” because – according to her – 33% of prisoners in Argentine jails were foreign.
— Patricia Bullrich (@PatoBullrich) January 25, 2017
Yesterday, Bolivia made it clear that it was unimpressed with the Macri Administration’s increasingly hardline approach towards border control and immigration, which it sees as potentially discriminatory towards Bolivian citizens. “The Argentine ambassador has to explain these new changes. We are saddened to see the stigmatization of Bolivian citizens in Argentina, which happens to coincide with the discourse of Trump. I would hate to think that my Argentine colleague [Security Minister, Patricia Bullrich] would follow this line of thought,” said Carlos Romero, the Bolivian Interior Minister.
In response to Romero’s remarks, Bullrich told Bolivia to respect the sovereign decisions of Argentina, and resolve any differences via diplomatic routes, according to Infobae.
The testy exchange comes about in the context of increasingly strict border and immigration control in Argentina, in part catalysed by the death Brian Aguinaco, a 14 year old Argentine boy who was shot by an underage Peruvian national in December.
On the television channel, TN, on Wednesday, Minister Bullrich outlined the three cornerstones of new border control and migration laws that will apparently be brought into effect via decree next week: “Whoever commits a crime in their home country will not enter Argentina; whoever commits a crime within Argentina will be expelled in the fastest manner possible (within a period of three months); and whoever has already committed a crime must wait out at least half their sentence, though their residency will be taken from them immediately.”
Patricia does not seem to be messing around. Earlier today, the Government launched surprise migratory controls at the bus terminal in Liniers, a transit-hub on the edge of Buenos Aires City. Agents from various federal forces, functionaries and personal from AFIP, were out in force, focussing their efforts on buses arriving from bordering countries, Bolivia, Paraguay y Perú.
Meanwhile, the legal foundations are already being laid for tougher border control. Yesterday, in the Official Bulletin, the Government announced the creation of a National Border Commission, made up of functionaries from various ministries, which will work, in part, to “prevent complex, transnational crimes like narco-trafficking, people smuggling and contraband.” This came off the back of Wednesday’s announcement of a new program to prevent the entry into Argentina of foreigners with criminal records. The Advance Passenger Information Program, which came into effect yesterday, puts the onus on airlines to pass on passengers’ criminal records to Argentina Border Control.