Argentina prepares to remove a ban on military involvement in fighting crime, terrorist threats and other internal security issues.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri speaks alongside Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne (R) and Central Bank President Luis Caputo at the G20 Meeting of Finance Ministers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 22, 2018.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri speaks alongside Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne (R) and Central Bank President Luis Caputo at the G20 Meeting of Finance Ministers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 22, 2018. (Reuters)

In a radical reform of Argentina's defence doctrine, President Mauricio Macri said on Monday he is removing a ban on military involvement in fighting crime, terrorist threats and other internal security issues.

Macri said he will modify a 2006 decree that limited the armed forces to defence against attacks by another country.

"It's important that they can collaborate in internal security, mainly by providing logistic support in the border zones," he said at a public act held at a military base.

"We need armed forces that are capable of facing the challenges of the 21st century, but we have an outdated defence system, the product of years of underinvestment and the absence of a long-term policy."

Argentina's current defence doctrine was adopted with the country's 1976-1983 military dictatorship in mind. Human rights groups estimate up to 30,000 people were kidnapped, tortured or killed during that period.

Human rights groups immediately criticised the decision, saying it could authorise military espionage, lead to repression and increase violence.

"Involving the armed forces in security issues puts at risk the civil government and human rights ... we have to reject this reform and defend the strict separation between defence and security," said the Buenos Aires-based Center for Legal and Social Studies.

Former Defence Minister Agustin Rossi said separating national defence from internal security has been a state policy since 1983 and should remain unchanged.

"Involving the armed forces in drug trafficking issues is illegal. In countries like Colombia, Brazil and Mexico this failed, and is being carefully examined now," said Rossi, who was in the left-of-centre administration of President Cristina Fernandez, who preceded the conservative Macri.

The current defence minister, Oscar Aguad, defended the plan, saying the change seeks only to give logistical support to security forces, including those fighting drug trafficking in the northern border region with Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay.

"We're trying to help them dissuade transnational groups from drug trafficking and terrorism to come into Argentina. They must block them from entering our territory," Aguad said.

For now, the government plans to issue the changes through a decree instead of a bill sent to Congress.

"We know that this transformation won't be easy," Macri said. "Profound changes are never easy. But this is the first step to build the modern, professional and equipped armed forces that Argentina needs."

Source: AP