After months of seemingly habitual acts of violence and hate coming from the seaside resort town of Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires Province, three people with alleged ties to neo-Nazi and fascist groups were arrested yesterday. Among them is the purported leader of a local hate group called Bandera Negra.
This group is suspected to have been behind many of the more troubling neo-Nazi attacks plaguing the city. In addition to the attack where two young gay men were severely beaten with cement-filled PVC piping in October, the group is also thought to be connected to an incident taking place at The Nevermind Bar owned by Javier Moreno, a local human rights activist, last month. Moreno was inside his bar, closing up for the night, when it was targeted and viciously vandalized, death threats being shouted through the broken windows.
In the days following the attack on Moreno’s bar, Esteban Paulón, the president of The Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Trans people, told The Bubble:
“We are extremely concerned over the neo-Nazi aggression that Javier Moreno suffered in Mar del Plata. Not solely over the fact that they [neo-Nazis] vandalized his business but also because we can clearly see how they are repeating these kinds of acts with full impunity, without any functional response from the authorities.”
Under Argentina’s current anti-discrimination laws at the federal level, there is no legal mechanism to protect a person from being targeted for either their sexual preference or gender identity. This was not the first death threat Moreno had received, in fact, short-term police protection was offered (as is available for anyone receiving a death threat in Argentina) but once the mandatory surveillance time had expired, Moreno was left vulnerable to further attacks. He was thus unable to take legal action to protect himself from the hate group.
The arrest of Alan Olea and the other two Bandera Negra members is a welcome break in the justice system’s typical inaction regarding the troubling activity that has been witnessed in Mar del Plata over the last year. (However, it should be pointed out that it looks like the members of the neo-Nazi group, famous for painting Nazi symbols over public and private property, were arrested for violating Mar del Plata’s anti-discrimination law’s clause outlawing racial discrimination and preventing of “acts of genocide” rather than for committing hate crimes targeting the LGBTQ community.)
While the fact that these individuals are in custody is a positive step towards justice, the way they got there, and the lengthy time it took for the justice department to legally get them into custody, makes the need for an effective and encompassing anti-discrimination policy response — one that offers protection to the people being effected on the ground — all the more poignant.