HomeNewsBriefLight Sentencing for Argentina’s ‘Monos’ Highlights Judicial Dilemma
BRIEF

Light Sentencing for Argentina's 'Monos' Highlights Judicial Dilemma

ARGENTINA / 16 APR 2015 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

Authorities in Argentina have granted reduced prison sentences to 18 members of criminal group the Monos, raising the regional debate over whether justice is best served by working with or without suspects in judicial proceedings.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers for Ariel “Guille” Cantero have agreed to a nine-year prison term for the alleged head of Rosario-based criminal group the Monos, reported Clarin. The Monos is a local drug trafficking gang that helped make Rosario one of the most violent places in Argentina.

Cantero was originally facing a potential life sentence for charges of first-degree murder. But in February, a witness in the case changed her testimony, saying she could not identify the perpetrators, according to Clarin. Shortly thereafter, Cantero pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and to being the leader of a criminal group. 

Authorities have handed down prison sentences ranging from three to eight years to 13 other members of the Monos as part of a similar deal, according to Clarin. Four additional members were given alternative sentences like community service.

Prosecutors accused Cantero of killing someone who the Monos believed had handed over Cantero's brother, Claudio “Pájaro” Cantero, to assassins in May 2013, according to Clarin. Pajaro had previously been identified as the leader of the Monos.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Monos case is illustrative of the dilemma facing judicial systems that try to encourage criminal groups to cooperate with authorities, while still ensuring justice is properly meted out. While it appears that in some of the cases prosecutors cut deals with the Monos because they were unsure if they had enough evidence to convict, many times authorities have other motives for engaging with criminal groups. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

In the United States authorities frequently offer benefits to known drug lords in exchange for information on their accomplices and network. For example, a former leader of Colombian criminal organization the Rastrojos, Diego Perez Henao, alias "Diego Rastrojo," received a much longer sentence than what is expected for his partner, Javier Calle Serna, alias "Comba." Unlike Diego Rastrojo, Comba was quick to turn himself in and is reportedly cooperating with US authorities.

This practice has led several high-level drug traffickers in the region --  such as Javier Eriberto Rivera Maradiaga, alleged head of Honduran transport group the Cachiros -- to hand themselves over to US authorities in the hopes of receiving a lighter sentence. Detractors say this system allows serious criminals to be let off without sufficient penalty. Supporters argue it enables authorities to collect valuable information on criminal networks and entices violent criminals to hand themselves into police.

Other judicial processes play out en masse but have a higher chance of failing. In El Salvador, for instance, authorities agreed to send leaders from the country's two principal street gangs, Barrio 18 and MS13, to low-security prisons as a part of a 2012 gang truce. The reported return of several MS13 and Barrio 18 gang leaders to a maximum-security prison in early 2015 underscores the sometimes tenuous and political nature of agreements between criminal groups and authorities.

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