Puerto Rico Cracks Down on Domestic Drug Trade

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In an operation apparently aimed at weakening the drug business inside Puerto Rico, police announced the arrest of 63 people across the island, accused of working at drug distribution points that reportedly brought in annual profits of $8 million.

The biggest number of arrests took place in the western municipality of Mayaguez, some 160 kilometers from capital district San Juan, with the arrest of 33 suspects. Police carried out operations in 23 drug sales points there, known as “puntos,” thought to bring in $2.5 million per year, according to El Nuevo Dia.

Another 25 adults and four minors were arrested in the southern region of Ponce, in operations that targeted sales points worth a total of some $3.8 million a year. Other drug distribution points were targeted in various other municipalities, some of them bringing in as little as $150,000.

InSight Crime Analysis

The operation appeared to target small-time drug dealers across the island, as demonstrated by the large quantities of individual packets of cocaine and marijuana reported seized by police. The seizures include 251 bags of cocaine, 393 packets of marijuana, and a small amount of crack.

Conflict between local gangs over control of Puerto Rico’s domestic drug trade is thought to be responsible in part for the island’s rising homicide rates. Puerto Rico saw over 1,000 murders in 2011, and finished 2012 with some 967 reported murders. Much of the violence is believed to be related to local gangs battling for control of the “puntos,” which, as illustrated by the reports on the recent string of arrests, can bring in significant annual profits.

This sweep will likely form part of a drawn-out campaign by the government to come down hard on crime. The governor recently announced the deployment of the National Guard along Puerto Rico’s coastline, intended to help monitor the transnational drug trade.

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