Friday, April 25, 2014

"Puerto Rico is becoming a narco-state": Under Pressure from the Drug Cartels, Puerto Rico is Collapsing - Canada Free Press 24/04/14 08:02 from puerto rico police department - Google News, and other news stories

» Under Pressure from the Drug Cartels, Puerto Rico is Collapsing - Canada Free Press
24/04/14 08:02 from puerto rico police department - Google News
Under Pressure from the Drug Cartels, Puerto Rico is Collapsing Canada Free Press In July 2010, an investigation by the US-DEA and the Puerto Rico Police Department resulted in a federal grand jury indictment for 158 people on heroin, cr...

Increasing involvement in the hemispheric illicit narcotics trade undermines the island's civil society

Under Pressure from the Drug Cartels, Puerto Rico is Collapsing

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By Sierra Rayne (Bio and Archives)  Thursday, April 24, 2014 
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In July 2010, an investigation by the US-DEA and the Puerto Rico Police Department resulted in a federal grand jury indictment for 158 people on heroin, crack, cocaine, and marijuana drug trafficking charges, as well as firearms related offences. It was the largest ever federal law enforcement operation in the American territory.
Only two months later, the DEAindicted another 20 individuals—including seven US Postal Service employees—for trafficking large quantities of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana through the mail. Over 50 tons of marijuana valued at greater than US$150 million was sent into the island from the continental United States by the corrupt employees. A month later a further 68 persons wereindicted for drug trafficking.
The flurry of DEA indictments in Puerto Rico during 2010 came after the high-profile arrest of Angel “El Buster” Ayala-Vazquez in 2009. Ayala-Vazquez was the head of Puerto Rico’s largest drug trafficking organization and responsible for both imports to, and exports off, the island. A year later, the DEA hadcaptured the top drug trafficker for the entire Caribbean region, Jose Figueroa Agosto, widely viewed as the “Caribbean’s Pablo Escobar.” The power vacuum following Agosto’s arrest concerned the law enforcement community, who feared a potential battle among drug cartels to fill the void. In May 2011, the NYPD and federal agents took down Puerto Rican cartel kingpin Ricardo Gonzales-Santiago in Times Square, along with 79 pounds of cocaine valued at over a million dollars.
The DEA’s arrests reflect the increasing presence and activities of drug cartels on the island, and murder rates are going up accordingly. Since 2007, the homicide rate hasincreased 35 percent to a level that is almost equal to that in Colombia, almost six-fold higher than in the USA (and higher than in any single American state), and well above rates in Mexico, Panama, and Nicaragua. At least 75 percent of the killings areattributed to drug-related violence.

Puerto Rico is becoming a narco-state

Unemployment is also pervasive and the recent financial recession hit the island harder than the USA, leading many citizens into an economic relationship with the cartels. In 2012, the unemployment rate was around 15 percent, the labor force participation rate is only about 40 percent, and the child poverty rate isnear 60 percent. Corruption in the government, and especially the Puerto Rican police forces, is on the rise. In 2010, 134 agents from the anti-narcotics directorate were firedfor misconduct known or believed to be related to the drug trade and its criminal spin-off activities.
Hundred of millions of dollars have poured into Puerto Rico over the past few years from the US federal government in an attempt to bolster security forces and push back the cartels. And yet the cartels push forward, leading some to wonder if Puerto Rico is becoming a narco-state? Perhaps the real question is whether it ever stopped being a narco-state after its move in this direction during the 1980s. Along with drugs, more smuggled cash is moving through the territory, leading to the recent Justice Department designation as a “major bulk cash movement center.”
As the drug war heats up in Mexico, the cartels are—once again—moving more product through the Caribbean. Much of the cocaine coming through Puerto Rico moves into the United States directly, dominantly on the eastern seaboard, or is shipped on to Europe. Illegal plane flights used to bring most of the cocaine into the Caribbean, often dropping small shipments in places like the Dominican Republic, after which the cocaine was picked up and transferred to Puerto Rico via go-fast boats. Following a crackdown on illicit air traffic in the region, now the main transport vectors are “go-fast boats, privately-owned fishing and recreational vehicles, and cargo containers” coming direct from the South American sources. The Sinaloa cartel from Mexico is known to be active in the area, as are the Venezuelan, Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Colombian cartels and their proxies.
By mid-2012, another 45 Puerto Ricans were indicted by the DEA—working in concert with the Puerto Rico Police Department, the San Juan Municipal Police, and the FBI—as suspected drug cartel members and their associates. The trafficking operation that was targeted included employees at Puerto Rico’s main airport, as well as at Miami International Airport and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Nothing illustrates more clearly the increasingly disruptive influence the cartels are having in Puerto Rico than its declining population. People are actually fleeing the island and primarily moving to the mainland United States. Puerto Rico’s population peaked in 2004 at 3.83 million. Since then it has declined by over 160,000 people. Its net migration rate in 2013 was -7.73 migrants per 1,000 population, compared to a rate of +3.64 migrants per 1,000 population on the mainland.
Puerto Rico is asking for help, but senior security officials there say Washington isn’t listening as close as it could be, even after a majority of Puerto Ricans voted for statehood in late 2012. The law enforcement deficiencies aren’t restricted to the island, however. Last year, the New York Post reported that Connecticut cops had “completely botched” a case dealing with the importation of 250 pounds of cocaine from Puerto Rico to New York City.
By late 2013, another round of DEA indictments occurred against cartel members on the island, this time with the successors who took over after the Ayala-Vazquez and Agosto arrests in 2009 and 2010. A well-known businessman with government connections was a member of those arrested in 2013, and other individuals in the group had connections to Texas, Florida, and California. The attraction of Puerto Rico is simple. Once the narcotics make it onto the island, they don’t need to clear customs in order to be shipped onto the US mainland. Vito Guarino, a special agent in charge of the DEA’s Caribbean division, has stated that the “similarities between Miami in the 1980s and Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic today are striking ... The Cocaine Cowboys, the Uzis, the shootouts that we used to have ... You’re seeing the same violence.”

The Puerto Rican New Year didn’t start off well. There were 13 murders in the first five days of 2014. By February, the island’s debt was downgraded to junk status by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. Electricity, water, and other costs of living areskyrocketing upwards while incomes stagnate or decline.¬† ¬† Under sustained pressure from the drug cartels, Puerto Rico’s civil society is collapsing in a synergistic spiral.

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