The New York Times
June 4, 2003

Argentina's President Overhauls Federal Police


BUENOS AIRES, June 3 Stepping up his purge of the country's unpopular security forces, Argentina's new president, Néstor Kirchner, today dismissed 80
percent of the high command of the Federal Police and also moved to bring a notoriously corrupt provincial force under increased federal supervision.

The action came barely a week after Mr. Kirchner struck at the armed forces, ordering more than 50 generals and admirals into early retirement and appointing an
inexperienced one-star general as the new army commander. Mr. Kirchner was sworn in on May 25 as Argentina's sixth president in 18 months, vowing to lead a
government that would make Argentina "a serious, normal country" in which human rights and the rule of law would be respected.

The minister of justice and security, Gustavo Beliz, said the firing of 10 of 12 senior police commissioners was just the start of basic reforms in the 32,000-member
force, the largest in Argentina. "Profound but not traumatic changes" are also planned at the level of 24 provincial superintendents and at 53 precincts here in the
capital, he said, including the vetting of new appointees by local human rights groups.

The current acting director of the police, Robert Giacomino, was not included in the purge because the president "has a favorable impression" of his ability to carry out the needed overhaul, Mr. Beliz said. A lawyer with a reputation as an anticorruption crusader who has been serving as the force's inspector general was appointed as his deputy, and there were some reports today that he would move to the top job by the end of the year.

The shake-up also affects the chronically inefficient and sometimes brutal police force in the province of Buenos Aires, where nearly one-third of Argentina's 37 million people live. The police there will now report to a committee that includes the Federal Police and the National Intelligence Service, which has been the target of much criticism.

Since its economic collapse in 2001, Argentina has been swept by a wave of kidnappings, robberies and carjackings. Faith in public security forces has been battered not only by the rise in crime, but also by accusations, widely reported in local news media, that police forces have been directly involved in such crimes or protected the culprits.