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How to design and implement public security policies. Former Uruguayan President calls for security overhaul.

Former President of Uruguay Luis Lacalle Herrera Photo Global Security Services/Antonio Scuro

Former President of Uruguay Luis Lacalle Herrera Photo ESN/Antonio Scuro

According to former Uruguayan President Luis A. Lacalle de Herrera, a necessary overhaul of that nation’s security policy would entail proper enforcement and adaptation of its laws, prosecution for minor violations, streamlining the judicial process, improving prisons and establishing standards of accountability for juveniles. In an exclusive interview with the three online publications (*) of our  company  EuropeSecurityNews ESN, the former president said prevention “means strengthening values ​​and restoring a sense of responsibility”.

Born in Montevideo on July 13, 1941, Dr. Luis Alberto Lacalle de Herrera was President of Uruguay between 1990 and 1995.  He is currently a Senator, also a lawyer, journalist and political leader within the National Party. In the last elections in Uruguay (2009) he was nominated for the presidency, winning 43.5% of the vote in the runoff.

On February 14 Dr. Lacalle Herrera was interviewed at length by ESN´s CEO and Editor in Chief Victor Bjorgan for his recommendations on design and implementation of public security policies.


Q. In regard to your experience as President of Uruguay, tell us how to design and implement a policy on public security?
First of all we must define the word security. In a democratic society, security is the legal protection established by the Constitution and laws. Therefore, the first thing you have to do as President is to enforce and implement legal protection for individuals, associations and society in general.  Today we are amazed at the frequency of offenses that were formerly uncommon in our country such as violent robberies and drug abuse. Ultimately criminal law and the judiciary have to deal with that, but the executive branch must first apprehend offenders and implement crime prevention policy.

Q.  How to improve crime prevention?
Prevention policy is becoming more complex due to changing mores, values and the breakdown of the traditional family.  This is a nightmare for national leaders, who obviously cannot predict the future but needs to support and strengthen social values.  Crime cannot be exclusively attributed to the lack of values ​​and education, so we should not be too hard on schools and families.  But there is a continuum in the society, and any modern version of the family and educational system must still ensure that boys and girls are taught a set of values.

I am a great believer in sports as a source of values.  In our country unfortunately, the practice of sports has been abandoned in favor of being a non-playing spectator, especially in public education.   Then we have the problem of outdated laws. In our country the beginning of criminal responsibility begins at age 18.  This was established in 1934 or 1935 but is no longer accurate today in our society.  When there are flaws in legislation we must try to adapt.  We have not yet succeeded in giving the state the right weapons for modern times, such as criminal responsibility from the age of 16 years.

Q.  Is government doing campaigns against juvenile crime?

There are limited campaigns against alcohol as a source of accidents. Uruguay has a high accident rate and many are due to alcohol, there are also campaigns against drug use.  But the family is losing authority, which parents cannot allow while their children are still dependent minors.  I sometimes see gangs of boys and girls out at night and wonder, where are the parents?  Resume a sense of responsibility.  I know it’s complicated when both parents work, arrive home late, do not have time to talk to the child, so put him in front of the TV or tell him to play outside.  But you have to resume responsibility and set a deadline for them to come back home. I know it sounds old-fashioned, but just because an idea is old doesn’t mean it’s not a good one.  We need to turn off the TV for an hour of conversation with our children.  Not just about details like bus money or lunch, but who their friends are, what they are going to do with their lives, and their romantic interests.


Talking about public safety issues: Former President of Uruguay Dr. Luis Alberto Lacalle and The Americas Post Editor in Chief Victor Bjorgan, in Montevideo, Uruguay. Photo Antonio Scuro.

Q. In regard to Police organization and criminal investigation, research shows that many detectives prefer to solve major crimes instead of minor cases. What do you see as the biggest security challenge for Police today?
Police organizations can change, we can fight crime at all levels and also maintain accurate criminal records but I think we have to go deeper. Start at the Police Training School to determine the ideal resources for prevention and arrest, then ask Police veterans if they have at their disposal all the rules that are needed.
In the case of Uruguay, a standard that was in force until repealed by leftist administrations governments was the general order authorizing the police to request identification.  Veterans have always told me it was the best weapon they had, because first they (the police veterans) know who to ask for ID and do not ask everyone.  It was required in limited circumstances and the good citizens have no problem showing their documents, for example if asked to do so by the Transit Police. The police profession is also subject to temptations of all kinds, but can be strengthened in values and also police need improvements in ordinary equipment such as vehicles and radios that empower the police to do their jobs more professionally. Salaries also need to improve for professional recruitment, to a realistic living wage.  Police were formerly considered do-nothings in Uruguay, but now they are facing homicidal drug gangs and the job is very dangerous.


Q. Tell us about the prisons in Uruguay.

Another issue that needs to be reviewed in Uruguay is the prison system, at the end of the process.  Prevention and apprehension alone are not enough.  In regard to the overcrowded prison system, we have serious violations of Human Rights in Uruguay.  Seven years ago we had a leftist government that gave them the possibility of having things like phones.  When prisoners who have communication with the outside are moving drugs, alcohol and guns, then what we are generating in prisons are schools of criminals, that graduate trained criminals.  Then you need jails that are hygienic, humane, but still tough, and reward good behavior for those who want to study or work.  The  prisons are a problem that this government does not want to deal with, and they are a disgrace.

Q.  Tell us your opinion about zero tolerance against crime.

The zero tolerance thesis of Mr. Giuliani has proven successful in the world. I think that is wise.  Take the example of a child; one has to learn to rebuke, to make him see he is doing something wrong when he first makes mischief.  I prefer to make someone see the evil of his conduct when he commits a traffic offense or insults someone on the street, instead of allowing everything, short of homicide.  This is very noticeable in soccer.  In England hooligans were eliminated, so why not here?  Because they are tolerated.


Q. What do you think about the Army doing Police work.

I think there is a barrier that sometimes people do not understand, between the legal authority of the soldier and the legal authority of the police. The soldier can not act as police because the laws do not allow them to do police work. If a soldier shoot a criminal trying to escape from a prison, the justice system will prosecute him.  In our country there is a militarized part of the police that must be strengthened, which is the final resort of police presence.  That is when the police, the Civil Guard are overwhelmed by events, then shock troops, infantry, cavalry and motorized cavalry are used when disturbances exceed the capacity of Police.


I believe in short that our country must update its laws, enforcing the rules against minor violations, expedite the judicial process, improve our prisons and establish younger standards of criminal accountability.  I think that is what I would do if I had to address that issue.

(*) TheAmericasPostes.com, SeguridadenAmerica.net and EuropeSecurityNews.com