Report Nº: 93610/11/2021
The riots in Patagonia reveal the disorder under which the public sector operates. The federal government refuses to protect national roads but uses funds to build streets and sidewalks that are municipalities’ responsibility. It also allocates a large part of the security budget to help the metropolitan region (AMBA).
The serious incidents generated by sectors claiming Mapuche’s cause led the Governor of Río Negro to request the federal authorities to send national security forces to take control of the national roads. The President’s response, through a public letter, was that it is not a federal government’s function to control national routes or to guarantee security in the region.
The National Budget 2021 of the Ministry of Security states that such Ministry “… is the public entity in charge of assisting the Presidency of the Nation in all matters related to internal security and the preservation of the freedom, life, and patrimony of the inhabitants“. For this purpose, there is the Federal Police, Gendarmerie, Prefecture, and the Airport Police. In the same document, the first objective of the Ministry is to strengthen the articulation with the provincial governments to address internal security.
The question is how the federal Ministry of Security deploys resources throughout the national territory. According to the geographic distribution of the 2021 Budget, it is observed that:
These data show that the federal Ministry of Security allocates 2 out of 3 pesos of its security budget in the Metropolitan Area of Buenos Aires (AMBA). For the rest of the country, it allocates a smaller proportion even though 15 provinces are bordering neighboring countries where the federal government –by constitutional mandate– has the duty to guard the borders with the Gendarmerie or Prefecture. But the Gendarmerie neglects the borders and the national routes to take care of the Conurbano (the metropolitan area outskirts) whose jurisdiction belongs to the Buenos Aires Police.
The federal government does not care about the maintenance and improvement of the national routes and, on this occasion, it also argued that it is not its responsibility to preserve the security on them. It is strange because they are interprovincial routes. The paradox is that it uses funds to fix streets, sidewalks, and squares, which are municipalities’ responsibility. In other words, the national government does not do what it should (take care of the national roads), but meddles in what it should not (streets, sidewalks, and squares). The same happens in education –it resists measuring educational results, but fixes provincial schools– and in public health –it does not measure sanitary results, but sends medicines to provincial hospitals–.
The problem with the Mapuches underlies the chaotic disorder of the Argentine State. The Mapuche case is not a specific issue but an extended bad practice throughout the public sector. In the Constitution and speeches, federalism and provincial autonomies are vowed. In practice, the centralization prevails. This leads the national government to interfere in services that are the provincial responsibility. It is taken as natural that the three levels of government want to do everything, increasing inefficiencies and diluting responsibilities. At the inauguration ceremony, politicians fight to be present in the photo. When failure comes, nobody takes responsibility, such as the unresolved violence in Patagonia.
This overlapping of levels of government guarantees social and economic decadence. It is essential to advance in an integrated public sector’s organization including the elimination of co-participation so that the provinces finance themselves with their own taxes. Likewise, the federal government should focus on its responsibilities without interfering in the provincial and municipal functions.