HomeNewsAnalysisWhy Can’t Argentina Control Its ‘Barras Bravas’?
ANALYSIS

Why Can’t Argentina Control Its ‘Barras Bravas’?

ARGENTINA / 7 DEC 2018 BY JOSEFINA SALOMÓN EN

The troubled road that led to one of Latin America's most anticipated soccer finals being moved to Europe exposed, once again, the reach and influence of Argentina’s powerful fan-run gangs and the government’s inability, or unwillingness, to tackle them.

The Boca Juniors and River Plate soccer teams of Argentina's premiere league will play the second leg of the controversial Copa Libertadores final, one of the main tournaments in South America, in Madrid, Spain, on December 9.

The match comes after the second part of the final was called off November 24 after a bus carrying members of the Boca team was violently attacked, allegedly by River Plate's “barras bravas,” as the soccer gangs are known, as the team arrived at the stadium in the capital Buenos Aires.

Security forces clashed with local fans, threw tear gas and detained nearly 60 people, reported Infobae.

The day after the canceled match, Buenos Aires mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta said the violence had taken place after authorities seized nearly $100,000 and 300 tickets to the match from the house of Héctor "Caverna" Godoy, one of the leaders of River Plate’s barra brava.

SEE ALSO: Argentina News and Profiles

This led to the resignation of Martín Ocampo, the secretary of justice and security for the city of Buenos Aires, a day later while Security Minister Patricia Bullrich dismissed reports that corrupt police had stepped aside to give the gang members access to the Boca Juniors bus.

“There were no internal issues within the police, there was no ‘free zone,’ there were only violent individuals,” Bullrich said in a statement reported by Perfil.

Since 1922, more than 315 people have died in soccer-related violence in Argentina, 97 in the last decade alone, according to estimates from the “Let's Save Soccer” organization, which gathers data published in media outlets.

In a bid to tackle violence in 2013, the Argentine Football Association (Asociación del Fútbol Argentino – AFA) and local authorities decided to ban supporters of opposing teams from games.

Congress is currently debating a bill backed by Bullrich to increase punishments for those accused of committing or instigating violence during sporting events.

InSight Crime Analysis

Soccer violence in Argentina is hardly new. But this act of violence against a rival team during one of the most high-profile matches in the country has brought the infamous barras bravas back into the spotlight, and placed renewed pressure on authorities to take action.

But tackling these powerful organizations might prove to be a nearly impossible task.

First, the local fervor for soccer borders on that of religion and is a never-ending source of power for clubs and, by extension, fan associations.

The barras have a great level of control over who plays in their club, who manages it and who receives benefits and privileges.

Diego Murzi, a sociologist and expert on violence in Argentine soccer, told InSight Crime that the power of the barras bravas comes from their structure.

“One of the particularities of soccer clubs in Argentina is that they are non-profit associations," he explained. "As such, to become president of one, you need to be elected and convince members to vote for you. This means you need to make alliances with and commitments to the barras bravas."

remarkable video from 2012 showed Paulo “Bebote” Alvarez, the former leader of the barra brava for the major club Independiente, threatening club president Javier Cantero on live television. Cantero was a target for fan ire after becoming president and declaring war on the gangs the previous year.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Soccer Crime

Second, soccer and politics are so entrenched in Argentina that it is often difficult to tell them apart. Politicians use the gangs’ territorial influence when they need to show force, and the barras bravas receive favors in return.

“The difference between Argentina's barras bravas and English hooligans, for example, is that the hooligans were marginalized. The barras bravas are useful to many people: politicians, police, club leaders,” Murzi said.

Those links cannot be underestimated. Argentine President Mauricio Macri, for example, was the president of Boca Juniors for more than a decade; Máximo Kirchner, the son of former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, is closely involved with Racing and Hugo Moyano, the leader of one of the most powerful local unions, who is also the president of Independiente.

Thirdly, these groups have a tight grip on the territories they operate in, which gives them control of very profitable illegal economies, including reselling tickets and controlling car parking in public spaces near stadiums.

These gangs have also been involved in more serious crimes such as drug trafficking and extortion. Since mid-2017, police in the province of Buenos Aires alone have arrested 52 members of the barras bravas from 15 of Argentina’s most important teams for such crimes, La Nación reported.

Macri sees barras bravas as an organized crime challenge and focused his administration’s response on increasing police operations and advocating for tougher punishments.

Murzi believes the problem lies in this approach.

“This is not just a security problem," Murzi said. "The problem is corruption within the police and their relations ... with the barras bravas. The problem is, partly a lack of will from the political class, but partly from soccer associations who have for many years completely ignored the issue of soccer violence."

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 4 OCT 2021

Ariel Máximo Cantero, alias “Guille,” is the leader of Argentina's Monos crime family. While he is facing decades behind bars,…

ARGENTINA / 7 MAR 2022

Paraguay has launched the biggest operation against cocaine trafficking and money laundering in its history, unleashing a scandal that has…

ARGENTINA / 6 JUN 2022

A series of arrests have highlighted how Chinese organized crime maintains a strong influence in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

About InSight Crime

WORK WITH US

Open Position: Full Stack WordPress Developer

28 NOV 2022

As Full Stack WordPress Developer You Will: Work collaboratively with other developers and designers to maintain and improve organizational standards.Demonstrate a high level of attention to detail, and implement best…

THE ORGANIZATION

Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…

THE ORGANIZATION

Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…

THE ORGANIZATION

Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime ON AIR

4 NOV 2022

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley was interviewed for the podcast The Rosenberg Case: A Tale of Murder, Corruption, and Conspiracy in Guatemala, which explores the potential involvement of then president, Álvaro Colom,…