Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Pnma: Mano dura only for the unprivileged

Mireya Moscoso has sounded the alarm about crime as her political swan song.

For the last three weeks or so, large groups of police officers, many of them wearing ski masks, have been swarming over the lowest-income urban neighborhoods, places where foreigners congregate and bars and brothels where prostitutes ply their trade, arresting dozens of people every night. There have also been frequent road stops on the Pan-American Highway, both to check drivers' licenses and to look for fugitives.

A few of the hundreds of people detained in the dragnet were the subjects of outstanding arrest warrants for serious crimes. Mostly, however, those caught in the net have been foreign prostitutes who have overstayed their visas, other undocumented immigrants found working here illegally, members of teenage street gangs, small-time drug dealers, homeless people who were living on the streets, individuals found inebriated in public, those caught holding illegal weapons or drugs and people who talked back disrespectfully to the police.

Meanwhile, the president says she'll call yet another special legislative session to take up tough anti-crime measures, the centerpiece of which is a proposal to increase the maximum penalty for juvenile offenders who commit murder, rape, armed robbery, kidnapping or drug offenses to 20 years in prison.

(Kids with the proper family connections who run over little boys in daddy's BMW, dragging them 200 feet to their deaths and then fleeing the scene will, however, apparently retain their full immunity during what remains of the Mireyista regime.)

Mireya also proposes to increase the maximum penalty for adults who commit murder from 20 years in prison to life imprisonment, but it is unclear whether that, too, will be on a special session agenda.

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