Berni, umbrellas, and the dangers of governing “in the air”
There will always be someone to blame. That dogma seems to guide government reactions in all areas. And the Minister of Security of the Province, Sergio Berni, applies it boldly and creatively: now he has blamed vacationers for planting their umbrellas on the beach, where he performs reckless helicopter maneuvers. It could provoke laughter if it did not reveal, in reality, the conception of officials who never take charge of things, evade their basic responsibilities and act with a clumsiness that encourages citizen perplexity.
A year ago, the government blamed runners and those who traveled to Miami for the spread of the coronavirus; later he blamed the laboratories, the “anti-quarantine” and the “organized parents” for their mismanagement of the pandemic. Power always finds ghosts to confront and hold responsible for its failures. Those who install their umbrellas on the coast seem to be a new link in that endless chain of “culprits”.
We carried out an aerial survey along the coast within the framework of the prevention tasks that we are carrying out to protect, with all our resources and the greatest deployment in recent years, the best season in decades.#TheForceOfTheProvince#ForceBuenosAires pic.twitter.com/IV19Gk8VoE
– Sergio Berni (@SergioBerniArg) January 16, 2022
Berni had to explain why the helicopter in which he patrolled the beaches of Villa companion He made a sudden descent almost flush with the sand, to the point of blowing up several umbrellas installed on the shore. But instead of explaining, he used the blame someone else shortcut: “We would have to start from the fact that an umbrella on the beach is a dangerous element. You have to wonder if whoever put up the umbrella did not consider that a gust of wind could lift it.” It is hard to imagine reasoning that goes further from common sense. Are beach umbrellas more dangerous than low-flying helicopters? Should we wonder about the one who put up the umbrella or the one who piloted an aircraft over a crowd of vacationers? That we have to ask ourselves these questions speaks to the level of a civil service that seems to see reality through a distorted prism. Perhaps it is the “helicopter effect”: from above, reality acquires other proportions, things become blurred and citizens appear to be just tiny and insignificant points on an amorphous territory. From so much getting on planes and helicopters, the officials stop having their feet on the ground.
Berni’s statements confirm this distorted view: “There was a cluster of 300 or 400 boys and it seemed that they were fighting in the middle. When he saw that, the helicopter (which was apparently driving itself and not responding to anyone’s commands) came over and some umbrellas were blown away.” Turns out they weren’t fighting, they were dancing. The “eye of Security” seems to confuse things.
The official account opens other questions. If it had been a beach brawl, what were they going to do from the helicopter to disperse it? Were they going to charge against those who were leading the hubbub? On the other hand, is the Minister the one who should patrol the beaches to “fish” for incidents and riots? Who is then in charge of planning and designing a security policy? Who thinks about the organization, professionalization and strategy of an increasingly disjointed force? It is one thing to be “on the ground”; another – different – is to get entangled in the minutiae.
It is not the first time that, on board an aircraft, Berni shows signs of foolishness. Just two months ago, he landed without permission on a children’s soccer field so that his wife could get off, whom he approached to an act in the official helicopter as if it were the family vehicle. That time, the president of the club (a modest institution of Ensenada) went out to denounce the outrage and made a judicial presentation. There were also no explanations or self-criticism. Justice – as far as is known – has not bothered to investigate the episode. The watchword is “go on and on”. That time nothing happened, because there were no boys in the club. This time, neither, because the umbrellas did not cause damage or misfortune. The next? Maybe it’s late.
But the underlying issue is not about the reckless adventures of a minister in a helicopter, but about what those episodes reveal about power. Is there a government willing to assume its responsibilities in an issue as sensitive as security? Is it a matter that is in the hands of professionals or amateurs? Faced with this scourge, is there a serious and consistent policy or a spectacular and marketing strategy?
As Berni confused dancing with fighting and sent umbrellas flying through the air, the Highway La Plata-Buenos Aires It was “no man’s land”. Perhaps you couldn’t see it from the helicopter, but a group of picketers had taken that central highway for several hours on Thursday, and they did it again on Saturday. The absence of the State led to something predictable: the law of the jungle was imposed. Barrabravas confronted picketers and ended up being shot. There was one dead. Before, tens of thousands of motorists had suffered an ordeal, trapped in the middle of that blockade deployed in the face of police passivity.
It was not the only thing that happened while Berni startled tourists in Villa companion. At that same time, an event occurred that would shake the country. He is the one who ended the life of Timothy Tintilay, the 61-year-old taxi driver who died hugging his livelihood in a desperate attempt to avoid being robbed. The images are shocking: the man, dragged for 17 blocks on the hood of his car, until the thief crashes and he dies flying through the air. The scene condenses the national tragedy: a criminal who should have been imprisoned if it had not been for judicial incompetence and negligence; a citizen who clings to his job, but ends up bent by criminal madness. As a background, a State that declares its impotence and officials entangled in internal affairs and minutiae. Berni will say, of course, that someone else is to blame, because it happened in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Boedo (although the perpetrator was a criminal who lives in Lomas de zamora). When it comes to defining responsibilities, the borders are insurmountable, although the flying minister has shown that, at the time of the cameras, he does not pay too much attention to jurisdictional limits.
Amidst the umbrellas, Berni was also far from Pilar, where a young man of 22 years, Braian Cuitiño, was killed by a mob at the door of a bowling alley. No one expects, of course, that the Minister is on every street corner where crime and madness lurk. Only his fondness for the spectacular attempts to convey that image of “justicier sheriff” in the geography of Buenos Aires. What is expected, perhaps, is greater responsibility, better planning and a professional response to the complexity of the challenge.
Perhaps we should recover common sense: the danger is not in the umbrellas, which in any case symbolize a small and ephemeral recreation in the midst of the oppressive maelstrom of Argentina. The scene of Berni flying over the beaches refers, in any case, to underlying questions: Where is the state presence? What are the priorities of a ministry that must face the terrible scourge of insecurity in the Province? Where is the focus of the country’s main police? The answers are in the images of these days. They are responses that accentuate the climate of defenselessness and enhance the confusion of society.