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Government Proposes Lowering Criminal Responsibility Age in Argentina

LADB Article ID: 80209
Category/Department: Argentina
Date: 2017-02-10
By: Andrés Gaudín

A mugging in a Buenos Aires suburb the day before Christmas left a 14-year-old boy dead. The victim was apparently shot by another adolescent, a 15-year-old who was born in Argentina but of Peruvian parents. Weeks earlier, three other deadly episodes occurred, although in those cases, the perpetrators were a small-business owner, a doctor, and a lawyer, all of whom reportedly acted in self-defense, killing their would-be attackers. Argentina’s major media outlets and even the Justice Ministry reacted with outrage to the Christmas Eve killing, demanding the stiffest possible punishment for the teenage suspect. Ultimately, the young man was freed and deported because the prosecutor’s office and judge, in accordance with the law, determined that he couldn’t be held criminally liable due to his age. The shopkeeper, doctor, and lawyer who killed in self-defense were freed as well, but without any of the same public indignation. As often occur with these kinds of sensationalized cases, a wave of public opinion quickly developed in response to the Christmas Eve murder, demanding that the age of criminal responsibility be lowered. What’s different this time around is that the government itself—banking on the perfect cocktail of anger-inducing elements (namely that the case touches on both immigration and underage crime issues)—has taken action by calling for changes to the Código Juvenil (juvenile code) and tightening controls on Latin American immigrants who come to Argentina seeking a better future.

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