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Working Against Drug-Related Violence in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño is engaged in a series of meetings with federal government officials with an eye towards solving the problem of drug trafficking and associated violence in Puerto Rico.

The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico has a much higher rate of violence than the states of the U.S. do, with a homicide rate more than five times the national average.  According to a document from Governor Fortuño’s office, over seventy percent of murders in Puerto Rico are directly attributed to drug trafficking.  While many in the U.S. may see this as a problem for Puerto Rico alone, it is a fact that the well-being of Puerto Rico affects that of the whole United States.

As the U.S. has dedicated more resources towards protecting its border with Mexico, Puerto Rico has become an appealing alternative for contraband.  Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR) has reported that seventy to eighty percent of cocain that enters Puerto Rico is ultimately brought to the U.S. mainland.  Governor Fortuno has stated in testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Subcommitte that nearly thirty percent of illegal drugs transported to the mainland United States arrive through the Caribbean.  Likewise, Rodney G. Benson, Assistant Administrator and Chief of Intelligence of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has testified before Congress that “firearms transported into Puerto Rico and the [United States Virgin Islands] from the U.S., particularly from Florida, are a significant threat to stability in the region.”

The United States has a responsibility to all U.S. citizens who are made vulnerable from lax border protections – regardless of where they live.  In the words of Governor Fortuno:  “Today, Puerto Rico is serving as the last line of defense in the Caribbean to prevent drugs and violence from reaching the U.S. mainland….[W]e cannot fight this war alone, nor should we be required to do so.  This is a shared responsibility.  The consequences affect us all.”

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