ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: Sometimes one gets the impression that our politicians are not living in Argentina when you listen to them, but in the perfect country they want us to believe we live in so that we continue voting for them.

Cabinet chief Aníbal Fernández said that the violent soccer element – the hooligans – must definitely disappear from the game and, after all they are only about 15.

He forgot to add a couple of zeros to the figure and even then he would be short. Even Quilmes, the club of which he is president, has many more than 15, but then club presidents always say they know nothing about these things.

Buenos Aires Province Governor Daniel Scioli is another one who says hooligans must be eradicated but after last week’s incidents at Laferrere he ordered ‘only’ that the club’s stadium be closed until the end of the season.

What he should really have done for a start is send in officers to break up the protection racket which is that hooligan gang’s main income – shops, bars, etc., in the area having to pay the hooligans a monthly fee for ‘protection’, meaning that if they did not pay they would have their businesses destroyed. It is doubtful that Scioli did not know this and also doubtful if he really would have done this.

Scioli’s government also finally presented, after 11 months of talking, project of automatically making a hooligan a criminal activity which would not immediately send them to jail, but should make it easier.

Yet when the project was presented at Congress this week it was turned down even for discussion . . . surprising or not?

Kirchner party Senator Diana Conti said that her majority party is against such a law as there are already laws to send criminals to jail. There are laws, true, but not adequate ones.

Now we have further proof of where the politicians are which protect hooligans. This refusal by the Kirchner party is also political, because Scioli, although of the same party, is not Cristina’s candidate for president, but leads in the polls. If he had got the bill approved it would certainly have been in his favour.

Scioli’s government immediately reacted at this blatant defence of hooligans and Conti’s ridiculous invention that after all the troublemakers are only a few kids in the stands. (Don’t tell us that as a senator she does not know any differently!)

Laferre incidents

Reports say that the Laferre incidents started when some 200 hooligans tried to get into the stadium without tickets during a match. The police stopped them (officially there were 260) which it is supposed to do. A battle began and the rest of the hooligan gang came out to fight police.

The result, apart from cars belonging to innocent people burned and other damage, was 26 police injured, three seriously, and 11 hooligans detained. The police must have been ordered not to harm hooligans, but the hooligans apparently received no such orders.

Closing the stadium for the season will cost the club a lot of money and may teach club officials not to assist their hooligans although they cannot do it on their own. But it is not going to teach the hooligans anything, specially as their ‘business’ is outside the club.

Furthermore, remember the incidents started because some 500 hooligans were not allowed into the stadium free, as usual. But what calls ones attention is that such heavy punishments are never given to big clubs such as Boca Juniors and River Plate who are among the worst hooligan offenders and whose officials certainly need a lesson about collaborating with hooligans. The Argentinian FA has a black hand in that.

Further help

The life sentence of Alan Schlenker, former leader of the River Plate gang for the murder of another gang member (Acro), was finally confirmed this week – was it really eight years ago! – but he is also being prosecuted for another murder. How long will that take?

Other River gang members were  given five-year prison sentences, but in suspense. This means they do not go to jail, but are only not allowed into a stadium which is not easy to check.

Ridiculous and feeble efforts to investigate hooligans continue. Only the ‘non-official’ gang’s attack against the ‘official’ gang at River Plate late last year is being investigated. Police went to search the club’s bar again where some of the fighting for free tickets with the ‘official’ gang took place.

What did they expect to find in the bar? Rather should they investigate where the free tickets came from. Surely they already know, but do not want to take action.

Hooligans are continually caught with illegal firearms. For this the lowest punishment is supposed to be five years, but has any hooligan gone to jail yet?

It has not been found out who killed Diego Bogado, supposedly a hooligan, at Vélez Sarsfield’ stadium two years ago, but the stadium’s security chief, has now been prosecuted for altering evidence and destroying a vital video.

However at least there seems to be more of an outcry lately against hooligans. What happened at Laferrere seems to have struck a cord in many and it should also with the police which got the worst of it.

Campaigns like that of the Argentinian FA which consist of players coming on to the field carrying flags with slogans against violence are, of course, useless. All we can do is wait to see if the next government will do anything.