Puerto Rico to Deploy National Guard to Fight Drug Trafficking

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Puerto Rico’s newly-inaugurated governor has announced the deployment of the National Guard along the island’s coastline, as the US territory struggles to combat rising drug-related crime.

Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla told EFE the military would help police monitor seaports and airports “with the aim of preventing the entry of drugs and illegal weapons into the country.” 

When and where exactly the plan will be implemented remains unknown, reported national newspaper Claridad, as to reveal such details would “help the drug traffickers and criminals that we want to fight,” said Padilla.

The decision was supported by Puerto Rico’s attorney general’s office, and law enforcement agencies, which see the security situation deteriorating on the island, even though murders appeared to decline slightly during 2012.  The murder rate remains around 26 per 100,000, five times the rate on the US mainland.

InSight Crime Analysis

Puerto Rico has become an increasingly important location in the transport of drugs from South America through the Caribbean, reflected in a 30 per cent rise in cocaine seizures on the island from 2009 to 2010.

Its status as a US territory means a lack of customs inspections on shipments bound for the United States – and corruption within the police adds to the island’s appeal for drug traffickers. Its growing importance as a drug transit nation has been blamed for a concurrent rise in violent crime. 

Before his election Padilla called for a state of emergency to be imposed in light of almost 500 murders having taken place on the island in the first six months of 2012. The previous year was the most violent in the US territory’s history, with 1,136 murders recorded. Three quarters of the killings were on the streets and 90 percent were shootings.

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