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Puerto Rico Law Enforcement Funding Included in Legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation to fund the Federal government from March 28th through September 30, the rest of Federal Fiscal Year 2013.

A separate bill has been introduced in the Senate and a compromise is expected to be reached, although there are differences between the House bill written by the House’s Republican majority and the Senate bill, authored on a bipartisan basis in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Senate committee leadership used the legislation to urge the Obama Administration to increase its efforts to fight illegal drug-trafficking related crime in and around Puerto Rico.  They wrote the following in a report:

Drug-related violence:  Efforts by Federal law enforcement to reduce drug trafficking and associated violence in the Southwest border region have affected trafficking routes and crime rates in the Caribbean.  The Attorney General is expected to address these trends by allocating necessary resources to areas substantially affected by drug-related violence, and reporting such actions to the Committees on Appropriations.

U.S. Security Interests in the Caribbean:  There are significant concerns about public safety and security in the Caribbean, as outlined in the House report, and it is excepted that the Secretary will allocate resources, assets, and personnel to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in a manner and to a degree consistent with those concerns.  Further, DHS is encouraged to work with the Department of Defense to address surveillance capabilities, as specified in the House report under a different heading.

Puerto Rico’s murder rate continues to be three times higher than that of any State, and six times as high as the nation as a whole. Law enforcement officials say that the vast majority of murders are related to drug-trafficking through the islands.

The Department of Homeland Security has increased law enforcement efforts in and around Puerto Rico but the Department of Justice has not done so in recent years.  When it did during the Clinton Administration, the murder rate dropped precipitously.

Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, pointed out the significance of including these provisions in the bill. “If this bill becomes law,” he said,  “we will now have a clear and unambiguous statement from the full Congress—both the House and the Senate—that federal law enforcement agencies need to improve their response to the problem of drug-related violence in Puerto Rico.”

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