Friday, June 1, 2012

Reining , Drugs, Weapons and Corruption in Puerto Rico.

(Otra muestra mas del fracaso del ELA. El articulo, publicado por Prensa Latina, establece comparaciĆ³n con los estados.)..mj

By Silvio Gonzalez*
June 1, 2012
Violence and crime at America's other southern border is on the rampage and it is only a reflection of the social impact that poverty has outside the mainland. With an unemployment rate of 16 percent, higher than any other state in the Union, the sad economic reality in Puerto Rico may be to blame for the rise in crime.

"There's anxiety on the street. There's desperation, there's a feeling that things have really taken a turn for the worse. Everybody's having a hard time making ends meet", said Alana Feldman Soler, a resident of Rio Piedras. Maricruz Rivera added, "the young kids don't have money to buy food, they don't have money to buy books or medicine, but they have a lot of guns."

Puerto Rico has a $3.6 billion tourism industry and the island welcomes five million annual visitors, but it's a small island and the war between drug gangs is showing violent anger in the nearby. The US Justice Department in a report in 2011, accused the Puerto Rico Police Department of a "profound" and "longstanding" pattern of civil rights violations and other illegal practices that have left it "broken in a number of critical and fundamental respects."

There is a sense of distress among the nearly four million American citizens who live on Puerto Rico, where violent crime has spilled into middle class areas nevertheless of an overwhelming American military presence. While violent crime has plummeted in most of the mainland United States, the murder rate in Puerto Rico is soaring. In 2011, there have been 786 homicides more than never before in the history of that island.

The Justice Department in a condemnation of the second-largest police force in the United States, accused the Puerto Rico Police Department of systematically "using force, including deadly force, when no force was called for," unnecessarily injuring hundreds of people and killing numerous others. The blistering report, also points out that the 17,000 officer force routinely conducts illegal searches and seizures without warrants and it also accuses it of a pattern of attacking non violent protesters and journalists in a manner "designed to suppress the exercise of protected First Amendment rights."

The report found, "far too many P.R.P.D. officers have broken their oath to uphold the rule of law, as they have been responsible for acts of crime and corruption and have routinely violated the constitutional rights of the residents of Puerto Rico."  In October of 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested 61 officers from the department in the largest police-corruption operation in bureau history. From January 2005 to November 2010, it said, there were more than 1,709 such arrests for offences "ranging from simple assault and theft to domestic violence, drug trafficking and murder."

The US Justice Department is also investigating the police departments in 17 other cities, including New Orleans, Newark and Seattle. "More P.R.P.D. officers are involved in criminal activity than in any other major law enforcement agency in that country." It also condemns nearly every aspect of the force like its hiring and training practices, the way it assigns and promotes officers, and its policies governing officer behaviour and accountability for misconduct.

The report focused on the "rampant" use of "unnecessary" force, a problem made worse by the use of tactical units, that have heavily armed officers who are poorly trained and steeped in "violent subcultures", for ordinary police work. It says such units frequently "rely on intimidation, fear and extreme use of force to manage crowds and are often deployed to low-income and minority communities on routine patrols."

Drugs are All Over the Place.

Puerto Rico's location in the Caribbean and status as a U.S. Commonwealth makes it an ideal place for drug trafficking organizations to springboard drugs to the mainland United States bypassing U.S. Customs checkpoints. The DEA has seen an increase in drug seizures at airports, in shipping containers, and in the U.S. mail in the island. Cocaine seizures in Puerto Rico increased 30 percent, from 2,894 kilograms in 2009 to 3,765 kilograms 2010, according to federal government statistics.

Weapons Trafficking.

Also there has been an increase in the number of heavy weapons being trafficked from the mainland to drug trafficking organizations in Puerto Rico by air, sea, freight, private couriers, and the U.S. mail. In the first eight months of 2011, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service seized 85 weapons hidden in postal packages postmarked for Puerto Rico. In 2010, the agency seized 105 weapons, a 50 percent increase from the previous year. Seized in other parcels were: assault rifles, AK-47s, AR-15s, extended magazines, scopes, and armour penetrating guns.
Rising Murder Rate
Even New York City, with twice Puerto Rico's population, had nearly half the number of murders that Puerto Rico had in 2010. Federal law enforcement officials estimate that approximately 75 percent of the homicides in Puerto Rico are drug-related. In the last couple of years, the violence has spread out of the island's poor public housing projects and into the mainstream areas, like malls and food restaurants where innocent bystanders are being killed, but also some people have been gunned down while driving on major highways.

In Puerto Rico there is an old tradition of attacking public service employees, slashing social budgets without caring about consequences, and destroying public education and that it´s not a road map to progress, in a country that has fought hard to keep its identity and culture. If you want a window into a future hardcore ultra conservative bipartisan administration from next November on, Puerto Rico is where you need to look.