Puerto Rico Violence Calls Into Question America's War on Drugs

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Michael E. Miller
Six people were recently killed outside this public housing project
"What we are seeing in Puerto Rico... is an unintended consequence of the pressure being brought in Mexico and Central America," he says. While Puerto Rican police are demanding better equipment, Bagley says the island would be better off combating social ills like its 14.6 percent unemployment or 56 percent child poverty rate.

See also:
- Puerto Rico's Wave of Drugs and Brazen Murders Reverberates to Miami

Those problems were apparent during a ride-along I took with Puerto Rican police. For hours, we cruised from one residencial, or public housing project, to another.

Drugs were everywhere. In one pitch-black field, our headlights lit up a ghostly scene of 20 crackheads passing around a few precious pipes. Nearby, two people sat on a stoop, openly heating up heroin in a spoon as cops rolled by.

The residenciales themselves were pocked with bullet holes from drug disputes. Lookouts shouted "agua" or "perro" when they spotted our unmarked cruiser.

Michael E. Miller
AK-47 bullet casings found at a crime scene in Canovanas
These same cops admitted to me that they are overmatched by better-armed drug gangs. Meanwhile, a drug dealer I spoke with brushed off my questions by pointing to police corruption, which is rampant on the island.

Legalizing drugs wouldn't fix all of Puerto Rico's problems, but it might help in the long run. Criminalization simply empowers cartels, and occasional crackdowns on certain routes just pushes drugs and violence to new locales, like Puerto Rico.

Until the States and regional leaders figure out a more comprehensive approach, I'm afraid Puerto Rico will keep bleeding.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes. Follow this journalist on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.

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