Bloody Tide: How Puerto Rico Affects the U.S.

As Puerto Rico is battered by a wave of drugs and brazen murders, Houston and other continental U.S. cities feel the blowback.

Bloody Tide: How Puerto Rico Affects the U.S.

Julio Ramos Oliver died over a spilled drink.

It was just after midnight January 20, and Old San Juan shook with the fiesta de San Sebastián. Under the golden glow of street lamps, more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans packed onto the narrow cobblestone calles for the year's biggest party.

Roque moved to Houston from Puerto Rico four months ago and has been working at Tex-Chick since January. He said that Caguas, his hometown in Puerto Rico, has nearly a dozen gangs in the surrounding area.
Photo by Francisco Montes
Roque moved to Houston from Puerto Rico four months ago and has been working at Tex-Chick since January. He said that Caguas, his hometown in Puerto Rico, has nearly a dozen gangs in the surrounding area.
Luis Roque, playing dominoes with Angel Lajara, left, and William "Papito" Lopez — co-workers at Tex-Chick — is one of approximately 30,000 Puerto Ricans in Texas, which has become the third most popular destination for educated Puerto Ricans in recent years.
Photo by Francisco Montes
Luis Roque, playing dominoes with Angel Lajara, left, and William "Papito" Lopez — co-workers at Tex-Chick — is one of approximately 30,000 Puerto Ricans in Texas, which has become the third most popular destination for educated Puerto Ricans in recent years.
Hector Pesquera, former head of the FBI's Miami office, now oversees the much-maligned Puerto Rico Police Department.
Michael E. Miller
Hector Pesquera, former head of the FBI's Miami office, now oversees the much-maligned Puerto Rico Police Department.
AK-47 bullet casings at a triple murder scene in Canovanas, east of San Juan.
Michael E. Miller
AK-47 bullet casings at a triple murder scene in Canovanas, east of San Juan.
Wanda Figueroa (left) and her daughter, Zuleyka Perez, stand in the spot where a Puerto Rico police officer shot Figueroa's two sons.
Michael E. Miller
Wanda Figueroa (left) and her daughter, Zuleyka Perez, stand in the spot where a Puerto Rico police officer shot Figueroa's two sons.

Dressed in a baggy yellow shirt and black hat, Ramos had met family members and friends hours earlier underneath a 40-foot totem pole overlooking the churning Caribbean Sea. Reggaeton refracted off the colonial architecture, and drunken revelers and empty beer cans littered the plaza.

At 12:52 a.m., Ramos, a 32-year-old fisherman, headed down a packed side street. As he raised a beer can to his lips, he clattered into the back of the man in front of him. The man spun around, his white jersey dripping with beer. Ramos apologized, but it was too late. The man raised his shirt to reveal a pistol. "We're prepared," he said. Ramos reportedly removed a knife from his pocket and answered, "So am I."

As the two men stared each other down, a third figure emerged from the crowd behind Ramos. A gun muzzle flashed. The fisherman fell to the ground, blood spurting from his throat onto the cobblestones. The gunmen fled, but not before blasting two more rounds into the dying man.

Ramos's killing was just one in a relentless wave of murders in Puerto Rico over the past three years. In 2011, the tiny island's record 1,136 killings put it on par with civil-war zones such as the Congo and Sudan in terms of murders per capita. Last year was little better. And in the past four months, a series of particularly horrific slayings has terrorized the tropical paradise. First, boricua boxer Hector "Macho" Camacho was mysteriously gunned down in November. Two weeks later, a well-known publicist was kidnapped, set on fire and beaten to death. And just last month, a gangster ran his car over an entire family, killing six.

Ramos's death in the heart of the city during the crowded SanSe fiesta was the most brazen and symbolic slaying yet. It signaled to the world what Puerto Ricans have known for several years: The "Isle of Enchantment" has become bewitched by violence. A crackdown on drugs coming across the Mexican border has only pushed contraband through the Caribbean, transforming the American commonwealth into the newest nexus for narcotraffickers.

"If this were anywhere else in the States, it would have created a national security crisis by now," Puerto Rico's police chief, Hector Pesquera, says of the sky-high murder rate, roughly seven times the national average. "But we are out of sight and out of mind."

When Luis "Jerry" Roque, a cook at Houston's Tex-Chick Puerto Rican restaurant, hears these stories, he simply nods, tossing his eyes to the side and affirming that, , it's that bad. He notes that these murders — these street deaths, as he calls them — are something everyone on Puerto Rico, whose population is just over half the size of greater Houston, knows about.

Camacho's shooting stunned the island. Ramos's death brought things to a point. Packed pistols on basketball courts, stray-fly bullets missing their targets and hitting those unintended. These "streets deaths" have pushed the wealthy into gated communities and forced many of the rest behind windows barred in reinforced iron.

"It's getting worse," Roque says, with his boss, Angel Lajara, aiding in translation. "The drugs are there — everything's there." Lajara jumps in: "If you want to find problems there, you can. Get some alcohol in you, and you can find whatever trouble you want."

Roque, who arrived as one of Texas's 30,000-strong Puerto Ricans only four months ago, who began working as a cook at Houston's 33-year-old Tex-Chick just two months after he arrived, chooses his words. He's normally amiable, normally boisterous, but his voice drops when these murders come up.

He says he hasn't seen anything firsthand. He says there's been nothing on his doorstep, nothing in his cocina in his home in Caguas, 30 minutes south of San Juan. But his friends — he won't talk about what his friends do, and have done. "There are maybe nine, ten gangs in my home," Roque said, trailing off, hesitant to say more.

He says that his life in Texas is "far more calm, more tranquil" than what he knew in Puerto Rico. Caguas is a midsize town, and Roque had a steady job at a local cafeteria. But he couldn't stay. "I didn't want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

To be sure, an economic component has played a large role in the swelling Puerto Rican ranks in Texas — which has suddenly become the third-largest destination in the country for educated puertorriqueños, following Florida and New York. "After last November's election, the new government eliminated 30,000 jobs in the government industry — engineers, doctors, nurses," says Rosa De Jesus, the secretary of the Sociedad de Puertorriqueños en Houston. "A lot of people lost their houses because of this. A lot of people have had both husband and wife lose their jobs."

And so the cycle loops back upon itself. Economic hardship begets drug-running, which begets violence, which begets a murder rate normally reserved for postcolonial power struggles.

Yet Americans who ignore the island do so at their own peril. As Puerto Rican politicians make an unprecedented push to become the 51st state, the commonwealth has become more central than ever to the United States's drug and crime problems. Pesquera estimates that 80 percent of the narcotics entering Puerto Rico end up in East Coast cities, particularly Miami and New York. Guns and money move in the opposite direction, and fugitives flow freely back and forth, frustrating officials. Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans are pouring into Florida, New York and Texas to escape the gunfire gripping their homeland.

Pesquera's police force is outgunned and overmatched. To make matters worse, rampant corruption and civil-rights violations dog the department, which, at 17,000 employees, is the second-largest in the nation. Whether because of these doubts or the spiraling national debt, the feds have been reluctant to help. Something has to give.

"This is the United States of America, whether people like it or not," Pesquera says. "We are the country's third border. If we don't protect it, you guys are fucked."
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By 10 a.m., the blood had already disappeared from Calle Saint Just. It wasn't cleaned up, like the scores of AK-47 cartridges that were scattered across the intersection like rice after a wedding. Instead, the blood was simply gone — returned to the Puerto Rican earth.

"The trucks roll by and spread it all over the place," says Officer Angel Martinez, a gruff, blue-eyed homicide detective.

Like most murders here, the blood belongs to gangsters who have gunned each other down, Martinez says. Around 9 p.m., drug dealers in a black SUV ambushed their rivals on this industrial stretch of east San Juan. Three men fled into a funeral home parking lot — a fitting place to die. The ambushers cornered them and mowed them down with assault rifles. One man survived; the others bled out on the dirty pavement. In the hours after those deaths, five other people were killed around San Juan.

Martinez has no choice but to shrug off such horrors. Grisly scenes are as regular as morning cafecito for Puerto Rican cops, who have the unenviable task of bringing order to San Juan's streets. As murders have doubled since the late '90s, the cops have found themselves overwhelmed by drug traffickers, marooned by an indifferent federal government and undercut by corruption.

At the head of that effort is Pesquera, a 66-year-old with a white beard, glasses and a sailor's mouth. "Every morning, I look at the stats and ask myself: 'What could we have done to prevent this?'" he says during an interview in his corner office. In these particular cases, not much, he concludes. "But guess who is blamed?"

Before Pesquera can save the island from chaos, he must first fix an antiquated police force infamous for graft and brutality.

"There have been scandals about police corruption and cops killing civilians in the streets for years in Puerto Rico," says Bruce Bagley, an expert on organized crime in Latin America and professor at the University of Miami.

This isn't the first time waves of violence have broken over Puerto Rico. Perched at the strategic entrance to the Caribbean, the Connecticut-size island has a long and bloody history. Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León slaughtered Taíno natives beginning in 1508. Over the centuries, slave uprisings and independence movements were put down with deadly force. By 1898, the colony had won a degree of autonomy, only for the Spanish-American War to transfer control to the United States.

When Puerto Rican politicians voted for independence in 1914, the United States responded by granting boricuas (anyone living on the island) U.S. citizenship — just in time to be drafted for World War I. Another 30 years passed before Puerto Ricans were allowed to elect their own governor.

Under U.S. rule, the island became a popular vacation spot. But by the 1980s, with Colombian cocaine flowing through Puerto Rico to south Florida, violence became endemic. Murders decreased in the 1990s as drug routes shifted to Central America and Mexico, but in 2006, newly elected Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared an assault on cartels. Two years later, the United States launched its own $1.6 billion Merida Initiative to combat gangs.

"That is why in the past three years, Puerto Rico has become increasingly visible in regard to drug scandals," Bagley says. "This is an unintended consequence of the pressure being brought in Mexico and Central America."

Today drugs from Haiti, Colombia, Vene­zuela and the Dominican Republic stream in on Jet Skis and go-fast boats. "Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, illegal contraband that makes it to the island is unlikely to be subjected to further U.S. Customs inspections," U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, head of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said during a hearing last year.

In an e-mail to the Houston Press, McCaul reaffirmed his stance. "In order for our nation to be secure, a comprehensive security strategy that takes into account all of our borders — including the Puerto Rican border — must be implemented," he wrote. "[I]t is clear that more needs to be done."

Pesquera, who'd been appointed chief a few months before that hearing, listened quietly in the audience as then-Governor Luis Fortuño accused the feds of having "no strategy." Puerto Rican by birth, Pesquera spent 27 years working for the FBI, running the agency's Miami office from 1998 until his retirement in 2003 and overseeing infamous cases including the "Cuban Five" spy ring and 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. Last March, at Fortuño's request, he took a leave of absence from his job as head of security at the Port of Miami to try to save his homeland.

Today he looks exhausted. Pesquera lives close to his office but is — by law — watched over night and day by heavily armed guards. ("I do go out sometimes without them knowing," he says with a smirk.) He is ferried to work in a brand-new, gleaming black SUV with lead in the doors. The windows in his corner office are bulletproof.

Amid the violence and paranoia, Pesquera has instituted practical reforms: updating aging equipment, improving training, and winning public support by sacking bad cops. And there have been small improvements. In 2012, murders fell to just fewer than 1,000 from their peak the year before, thanks to an odd arrangement with federal prosecutors. (The first two months of 2013 saw 148 new corpses on the island — a shocking total but slightly below the number during the same period last year.)

Unlike laws anywhere else in America, Puerto Rican law allows anyone — even accused murderers — to bond out of jail. Drug dealers often spring out, skip court, disappear and keep on killing. "We've had guys wearing [electronic] ankle bracelets murdering people," Pesquera says. In the past year, however, the Department of Justice has increasingly used federal gun charges, which prohibit bond, to keep criminals off the street. "We're sending two flights a week to the U.S. because we can't hold them all."

Still, the bloody tide has barely receded. "In reality, all of San Juan is hot," Angel Martinez confesses as he cruises away from the funeral-home shooting toward the next crime scene: a triple homicide in the town of Canovanas, ten minutes east of the capital.

Gunmen fired more than a hundred AK-47 rounds here last night, and a handful still lie scattered around the crime scene. Water in a nearby drainage ditch is cloudy with blood.
_____________________

Julio Ramos Oliver's January killing made grisly headlines as far away as Canada. Puerto Rico was already reeling from a string of sensational slayings and battered by 14 percent unemployment; the last thing the commonwealth needed was to scare off tourists. Suddenly, the island's slogan, "Puerto Rico does it better," seemed less an invitation than an assassin's snarl.

"People here are fearful," Pesquera says. "It's because there is indiscriminate shooting in public areas between [drug gangs], and innocent bystanders get hit."

A deeper look at the past year's most brutal crimes — and the stories of those affected by the bloodshed — illustrates even better than eye-popping stats why educated Puerto Ricans are fleeing to Miami, New York and Texas like never before. Nearly 5 million Puerto Ricans now live in the mainland United States, compared with just 3.6 million on the island. As the commonwealth shrinks by 15,000 people a year, Florida's Puerto Rican population grows by 7,300 annually. Texas, a state with little prior history of immigration from the island, now welcomes nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans a year. They're driven by a lack of jobs but also by the carnage.

"Last year there were 180 fewer murders than in 2011, but they were probably even more brutal and shocking," says Luis Romero, the founder of anti­violence group Basta Ya! Romero should know: His son was stabbed to death in 2011 while walking with his girlfriend. But recent murders have been so "ghastly," Romero says, that Puerto Rico is suffering from island-wide post-traumatic stress disorder.

The string of shocking killings began two months before the SanSe festival, with the death of Hector Camacho, the boxer who had garnered worldwide fame by winning 79 fights (and losing just six) with a flamboyant style. Camacho and a friend were fatally shot as they sat in a car outside a bar in his hometown, Baya­món. Police found ten packets of cocaine in the car, one of them open. The boxer had been shot in the face.

On November 29, a well-known publicist named José Enrique Gómez Saladín went missing. Soon video footage emerged showing Gómez being forced to take out $500 from an ATM. Four days later, he was found burned and beaten to death with lead pipes.

The day that police announced they had arrested four suspects for kidnapping Gómez in a seedy neighborhood, a popular TV show called ­SuperXclusivo aired a segment about the killing. The show's main character, a puppet named La Comay (slang for "The Godmother"), stunned viewers by suggesting Gómez got what he deserved. "I ask myself if this killing was not involved in sex, drugs, homosexuality and prostitution," La Comay said. "Did he get what he was looking for?"

A boycott forced the program off the air weeks later, but the damage had been done. The La Comay scandal seemed to expose a newfound heartlessness, as if boricuas had become numb to the violence.

Then came the SanSe murder. Sujeylee Ramos, Julio's older sister, was there that night beneath the totem pole but left shortly before her brother was shot. Her teenage niece tried to revive Julio when cops failed to do anything.

The bloody tide continued. On January 23, 24-year-old Steven Cruzado López was shot in the back on a basketball court in San Germán after another player took offense at a foul. Less than a week later, a man and his wife were killed hours after abandoning the island's witness protection program.

None of that compared to the carnage of February 1. Seven relatives were crossing the street near their housing project in San Juan when a stolen car careened into them. The collision killed six, including a grandmother, her granddaughter and four great-grandchildren.

That crime illustrates another regular challenge for police: The driver, 21-year-old Jonathan Soto Bonilla — nicknamed "787" for the Puerto Rican area code tattooed on his neck and already a suspect in a drug-related double murder — fled the scene on foot before catching a flight hours later to New York City.

Soto is far from the first fugitive to flee to the mainland. The reverse is also common. In the summer of 2009, nine people were killed in drug skirmishes in Buffalo, New York. When authorities cracked down on gangs, many members fled to Puerto Rico. Last year, a New Jersey marijuana trafficker named Felipe Cantres-Sanjurjo, wanted for two murders, was caught in Puerto Rico. And this January, officials in Camden, New Jersey, charged 36 members of a heroin ring linked to the Ñetas, a powerful gang operating inside Puerto Rico's prisons.

"These guys will go from Puerto Rico to New York because something happens in Puerto Rico and they have got to run," says a recently retired NYC gang investigator, who asked that his name not be used. "Other guys come here because of the drug trade or because they are no longer in good graces with their gang [on the island]...It's definitely a strong network."

Few of Puerto Rico's recent grisly murders have been solved. In some, such as Camacho's killing, cops don't even have suspects. And even if they make arrests, witnesses are often too afraid to testify.
_____________________

Wanda Figueroa left work just in time to see her two sons get shot.

It was a muggy afternoon in Manatí, a city of strip malls surrounded by jagged green hills to the west of San Juan. Figueroa had walked out of the Taco Maker, where she worked, and into the parking lot to meet her 22-year-old daughter and her younger son, Saul, but she found him in a shouting match with a stranger holding a club.

She watched in horror as the man struck her 19-year-old over the head, sending him crashing to the pavement. Her older son, Adrian, stormed out of the restaurant and grabbed the man's weapon. Then the man pulled out a gun. He sprayed Adrian four times in the chest, shoulder and foot and then turned, sinking two fatal shots into Saul's stomach. Finally he pointed the gun at Figueroa and pulled the trigger. Click. It was out of ammunition.

It wasn't a robber or a drug dealer tearing apart Figueroa's family on April 27, though. The barrel she was staring down was government-issued. Her son's killer was a cop.

That double shooting is one of hundreds of cases of alleged brutality by the Puerto Rico Police Department, which was slammed in a 2011 DOJ report that cites "the staggering level of crime and corruption involving PRPD officers," including drug dealing, gun running and murder. A 2012 ACLU probe, meanwhile, determined that PRPD is "a dysfunctional and recalcitrant police department that has run amok for years. Use of excessive or lethal force is routine, and civil and human rights violations are rampant."

Pesquera disputes those findings — "I don't care about all that special-agenda crap," he says — but to critics, Figueroa's story shows why many Puerto Ricans fear cops more than they do thugs.

"Police here are like an enormous octopus with its tentacles in everything," Figueroa says. "They do whatever they want."

A tiny woman with bleached-blond hair, Figueroa has worked at the Taco Maker for 23 years, rising to manager and raising her three kids by herself, taking them to work with her.

The day of the shooting, Figueroa and Adrian, then 20, had been working at the restaurant. Her daughter, Zuleyka Perez, and son Saul had been visiting Saul's sick five-month-old in the hospital. They arrived in separate cars, bearing the same good news: The infant was recovering from a bacterial infection.

The trouble began, everyone agrees, when Zuleyka parked her car in the Taco Maker lot and found Officer Alfredo Delgado Molina behind her on his motorcycle. "You ran the light," he told her. Saul quickly walked over, and Figueroa came outside.

That's when the facts get murky. Figueroa and her daughter say Delgado snapped at Figueroa: "If you're not a judge or a lawyer, you need to get the fuck back inside!" When Saul demanded that Delgado stop yelling at his mother, the cop struck Saul and then — as Adrian ran out to help — pulled his gun and began shooting.

"We aren't bad people," Figueroa says with a sob, standing in the spot outside Taco Maker where she watched Saul die. "We all work in the same place, stay out of trouble. I raised all three kids by myself as best as I could. They aren't criminals. And then they take them away like this? It's difficult."

The police disputed that story. Delgado, who couldn't be reached for comment, said in a statement that the brothers had hit the officer in the face and knocked out a tooth. ("It was either his life or theirs," his supervisor added.) Cops also claimed to have found a metal pipe at the scene used to beat Delgado.

Pesquera adamantly defends his officer, who was cleared by the force's Special Investigations Department. "These two guys came out and hit the officer," the chief says. "He defended himself."

In fact, Pesquera says he wants his cops to act just like Delgado. "If you challenge a police officer and you bring a weapon, expect to be shot at."

Figueroa's struggle didn't end with Saul's death or Adrian's long recovery, though. Incredibly, both mother and son were slapped with five criminal counts ranging from assault to obstruction of justice. Under a law signed by Fortuño, they both face 99 years in jail because the alleged crimes resulted in a death — namely, Saul's.

"They are blaming us for my own son's death," Figueroa says in disbelief, raising her pant leg to reveal an electronic monitoring bracelet.

Whomever's story you believe, there's no question that cases such as the Figueroas's exacerbate Pesquera's challenge. Consider the DOJ's 2011 findings, including that trigger-happy cops often unload rounds without reason, "unnecessarily injur[ing] hundreds of people and kill[ing] numerous others," usually in poor areas.

As if that accusation weren't bad enough, many Puerto Rican cops are straight-up criminals. Between 2005 and 2010, more than 1,700 PRPD officers were arrested on charges ranging from theft and assault to drug trafficking and murder. The FBI arrested 61 islander cops in one swoop in 2010, accusing them of protecting drug traffickers. Officers killed 21 people in 2010 and 2011, including the recent fatal shooting of an unarmed 14-year-old. "The PRPD is using excessive force as a substitute for community policing," the ACLU report concluded.

Pesquera counters that he's already fired more cops in ten months than his predecessors did in four years. When he discovered there were 4,000 pending internal investigations, plus another 7,000 awaiting adjudication from the legal department, he made them a priority. "We are down to 700 that still need to be investigated," he says.

But Pesquera's own record isn't spotless. In 2003, Miami New Times reported on a DOJ investigation into his close friendship with convicted Cuban felon Camilo Padreda, a pre-Castro policeman who specialized in bribing city officials. Pesquera let him hang around the FBI offices so much that employees eventually reported their concerns to outside agencies. One cop recounted seeing Pesquera accept a gold watch from the crook.

Pesquera brushes aside the decade-old accusation. And when it comes to reforming Puerto Rico's shambolic police force, he is blunt. Some degree of corruption is inevitable in a place where drug money is rampant and cops' salaries are minuscule (the median was $31,000 a year in 2011). But he denies that brutality and crime are deeply rooted.

"Like any institution, there are going to be guys who beat people," he says with a shrug. "It's not the institution's fault unless you don't do anything about it."
_____________________

Four hundred feet from the spot where Ramos died over a spilled drink, a steep cliff drops precipitously into the sea. Wedged between the cliff and the Caribbean lies La Perla, a slum infamous as a redoubt for drug traffickers and a tourist mecca for marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

"They have sophisticated radio equipment so they can listen in on us and signal blockers keeping us from spying on them," says Juan Nieves, a veteran cop with salt-and-pepper hair, as he peers down into the dark, densely built barrio from his cruiser on the higher ground of Old San Juan.

La Perla — where police are powerless and the drug trade paramount — is a microcosm of Puerto Rico, which is sure to see ever more drugs and violence as the States and Mexico clamp down harder on their shared border. And though 80 percent of the island's murders are drug-related, Pesquera's requests for federal aid have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, the sequestration cuts hitting the Coast Guard and Customs mean he's likely to receive less help than ever this year.

"We are not going to arrest our way out of our murder problem," Pesquera says. "We need help fighting the flow of drugs. That's what's killing us."

Sitting in an unmarked Chevy Caprice in the shadows overlooking La Perla, Nieves and his partner, Osvaldo Merced, point out a drug deal under way.

"Check out these two guys. They are looking to score," says Merced, a young cop with a buzz cut and superhero-size shoulders. Two teenagers in black rock-and-roll T-shirts approach a stone staircase plunging toward the ocean. An old man perched next to the stairs says something lost in the surf. "That's the lookout," Merced says.

The teens disappear down the staircase and then emerge a few minutes later. The one in a Rolling Stones shirt drops something into the old man's hand. The two then head toward one of San Juan's most popular nightclubs.

Tonight Merced and Nieves aren't making arrests, just showing a journalist how the city works. But in 2011, Puerto Rican police did conduct a rare raid of La Perla, arresting nearly 70 members of a drug ring, including its leader, Jorge "Truck Face" Gómez-González.

"You can tell where the bichotes (big shots) live because they have the fanciest homes," says Merced, pointing to several three-story houses. "They have three, four Mercedeses and girlfriends with bodies sculpted by the best plastic surgeons in the world."

"They are better than us," adds Nieves, who is two days from completing 25 years on the force. "We arrested Truck Face, but someone else just took his place."

For now, Pesquera is pleading for help, including at a recent meeting with Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who pledged support. "I don't think she was blowing smoke up my ass," he says. Yet when the Coast Guard unveiled a fleet of 12 new cutters, they went to Miami and Key West — where drugs rarely arrive via the ocean these days — instead of Puerto Rico.

Truth is, there's little willpower in DC to spend heavily on an island of 3.6 million people whose ballots don't count. Perhaps that's why Puerto Ricans are debating louder than ever their identity as a U.S. commonwealth. When boricuas went to the polls last November, 54 percent rejected the status quo. But the vote was split among those who favored independence, statehood or remaining a commonwealth. Fortuño — the governor who appointed Pesquera — was dumped out of office.

Pesquera isn't sure whether he will remain police chief beyond the end of March, when he is scheduled to return to Miami. His department remains in flux: 17,000 cops with frayed uniforms, aging equipment, no computers and — if the fatal shooting of Saul Medina Figueroa is any indication — more than a few bad apples.

Figueroa recently received two years' probation as punishment for witnessing a cop kill her son. Her other son, Adrian — who still has a bullet buried in his collarbone — accepted a deal of three years in prison to avoid a life behind bars.

On February 27, David Bonilla Fernández, wearing a white polo, spiky hair and an expression free of emotion, walked into San Juan's central courthouse. Cops were waiting for him. Five days earlier, they had distributed photos of Bonilla and three others surrounding Ramos moments before his murder at the SanSe festival. Prosecutors had charged Bonilla in absentia, and the scrawny 24-year-old had arrived to turn himself in.

But there was no relief for Ramos's family. Bonilla hasn't confessed, and the video evidence against him is thin. Unless terrified witnesses can be persuaded to testify, a jury will likely let him off.

In fact, Bonilla could be strolling around free even earlier. Last November 4, Puerto Rican voters rejected an amendment that would have revoked the automatic right of accused criminals to bond out. So if Bonilla can come up with $120,000, he will walk.
_____________________

Jerry Roque is singing. He's standing in Tex-Chick's charcoal kitchen, scratching out something by Shakira, with his hat askew and his earbuds draping like loose pearls near his lobes. He grins as he spins to the counter behind him — nimble for a man of his heft — crunching and crushing a trio of yellowed plantains into the most authentic Puerto Rican mofongo Houston knows.

"Oye mami, vuelvete loca!" He laughs, cupping the plantain mash, flipping it into its traditional circular cast. It's a clear Saturday afternoon, and an autographed photo of Sonia Sotomayor stands above, and Roque, still smiling, parries the Spanish orders at Tex-Chick with another round of Shakira's muerdeme-la-boca!

He seems at home here, twirling in the cocina and tossing another round of alcapurrias for those waiting. He seems perfectly fine with the pork and the pollo and the knowledge that he's working at the finest Puerto Rican restaurant in the city.

But when you sit with Roque — before the morning shift, before the line curls to the benches outside — and you begin asking about the home he left four months ago in Puerto Rico, his eyes jump and his lilt goes soft. The man who'd been pattering through a Spanish-English chimera, speech speeding like a cigarette boat, turns short.

"The opportunities here in Houston are just much, much better than you know in Puerto Rico," he says, Lajara translating. "And I miss the beaches — the beaches there are all year-round. But back home, there are problems. It's ugly."

Despite his scattered tattoos and facial scruff, he says again that the murders and the drugs and the muerte weren't for him. His friends, maybe, but him — he couldn't. Because he has a pair of daughters back home. Twins: Jerriares and Jerrieles. Sixteen months old. They're in Caguas, learning their first words, taking their first steps, with Roque's mother and father and ex-wife nearby.

They're still there, with San Juan only 20 miles away. Drive a half hour from Roque's home and you can find Ramos's blood-washed pavement. Drive a few city blocks and you can see the cops waiting for a drug deal — for a swap to bust, or not, as they see fit. Step down the street, but leave the daughters in the house, because these drug runners and gang men — their bullets don't discriminate between boricuas.

Roque talks about how he needs to bring his daughters here — for the money, for the safety. Tex-Chick may be a boricua restaurant, and there may be thousands of puertorriqueños swelling this city, but this isn't Puerto Rico. To Roque, Houston is a haven.

But he knows he needs more funds to move from the apartment in north Houston and find a better place for his family, allowing them to join the Puerto Rican doctors and engineers and cocineros who have recently left their island home. He knows he has to improve his lot here before his daughters can find someplace safer. Because, as he says, the ones dying aren't simply those on the wrong end of a spilled beer or a stolen pistol.

He's here, and his daughters are there, alongside Pesquera, alongside the corruption, alongside the zero-sum world of the gangs and hits and the War on Drugs. Back in Puerto Rico. "And I will bring my daughters here. I...am worried. I am worried, because they kill innocents."

michael.miller@miaminewtimes.com or casey.michel@houstonpress.com

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nacion77
nacion77

Is easy to write without having all the facts.  I bet the pseudo-writer haven't go to the Puerto Rico ever.  Average American don't know their own history, how do we pretend them to know ours or our reality? Wake up!

Cooky_Doe
Cooky_Doe

Nothing in San Juan can overlook the Caribbean Sea since the capital is located on Puerto Rico's north coast, facing the Atlantic Ocean. Writers, check your geography.

cynthiaileen
cynthiaileen

The more than 30,000 lost jobs ocurred under the previous government and not under the one that took office last January.

crystalroebuck
crystalroebuck

Most of this stuff happens in the Capitol. The whole island is not like this.

jgpuertorico
jgpuertorico

I dont get mad about the article, I live here, been here all my life, went to the U.S., didnt like it, all of my life there has been assasinations, deaths, suicides, and things like that in Puerto Rico. Theres a lot of people here that have realy low esteem when talking about Puerto Rico, they say that the island is crap, that the people have the fault, blah blah blah. The island has a lot of crimes, but its not on all of it, 89% of the crime happen in places like San Juan(the capital), Carolina, Canovanas and Bayamón all of them close to the capital. The rest of the island is realy peaceful, I like when news like this come up, because it shows how racist we puertorricans are with ourselves and how racist a lot of U.S. citizens are with us to. A lot of puertorricans keep using the excuse of crime for statehood, the reality is that the U.S. has better things to do and more interesting problems to solve, I dont want statehood, Puerto Rico is a beautiful island with beautiful women and awesome guys to chill out with. But there are also a lot of people with low self esteem and they like to blame it all on crime, not knowing that the roots of it are in their negativity. There will probably be some puertorrican that will criticize my comment, and youl know why I talk so much about esteem x]. 

billetsour
billetsour

(continued...)

As for the agenda of the article, I found it more to be directed towards a plea for more Federal help in fighting the drug war on all borders, including PR.  There were many references to the amount of money spent in Mexico to fight the drug cartels and how little is contributed to secure the Puerto Rican people from our own drug issues.  I have my personal opinions on why there is so little Federal support to fight the Puerto Rican drug war but I will not share them here because it will divert greatly from the focus of this article which I found sad and hurtful but in NO way racist, badly written or with a purposeful agenda to turn the US born Americans from Puerto Ricans.

Many of us left the island to escape the crime wave and the violence.  Professionals, skilled workers and teachers.  Ask any of them and they will all tell you the same thing.  "Extraño mi isla, pero ya no se puede vivir ahi". ( I miss my island but we just can't live there anymore).

(continued...)

billetsour
billetsour

I read this article yesterday afternoon and it hurt to read.  I am a Puerto Rican who moved here to Houston 7 years ago.  Why did I leave my beautiful "islita" and come here?  Because what little work I could find as a Software Engineer paid less than what a short order cook makes here in Houston.  The final decision to leave PR came when my next door neighbor's house in Rio Piedras was broken into and his wife was beaten and raped in front of him while he was tied to a chair and beaten with the butt of a gun.

To all the Puerto Ricans who are so upset and calling the publication racist, I would suggest that instead of "tratar de tapar el cielo con una mano" you look deep into the social issues that affect our island and accept them as they really are.  Security in Puerto Rico has become worse as the years have passed and that is undeniable.  Yes, it was violent in the past too but the numbers don't lie.  We broke the murder record last year and that cannot be denied.  It is a cold fact. 

(continued...)

e5d5i5e5
e5d5i5e5

contiue

The article is kind of negatvie but being the true picture of what Puerto Rico is it needs to be reported and like the songs says re: Song by Four: A PURO DOLOR "Pero con un dedo no se tapa el sol", you should not hide the sun for it is there and the truth re: "Then you Shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free" John 8:32 King James Version, shall set you free.

No tapes la verdad, se conciente cuan es la mentira y aprende a cambiar las cosas e mentiras en un aura positivia. Usa tus energias para buscar el cambio, que en la realidad ayudara a que baje la ensidencia de las matansas en Puerto Rico. Por ultimo nunca critiques la verdad, pues si la criticas y la tratas de esconder eres parte de la mas grande mentira. Perdona sabes. You can look me up in Google: Edwin Gautier Vega

e5d5i5e5
e5d5i5e5

continue

In New York last year, there were 418 murders in 2012, with 8 million residents, at least 3 million Puerto Ricans live there.

I have had thus to unfortunately endure living around drug users, thieves, rapists molestors to include men who like men, alcoholics and murderers and have met at least 20 murderers and assassins all Puerto Ricans ( yes murderers) who have killed more than 2 to 3 persons each and have served 2 to 3 years in jail or when they (the murderers) are born again christians, like a couple of murderers (who killed over 3 persons) I've met carrying the word of GOD who have never even got prosecuted nor spent one day in jail for their infractions of law. Those preachers (murderers) carry the word of GOD and bragg of how fortunate they have been that GOD has saved them from going to jail.

I write to you not only to tell you the truth, which the cook said but to ask you not to hide the truth, and to ask you to use your energies in a positive manner, not in the negative denying the truth of what came out in the article.

Instead of talking against the truth, I suggest that you find the strenght to use your writting skills to say the truth and in a positive manner assist in changing the now Puerto Rico to a better Puerto Rico where murders, drugs, and rapes of innocent people will be a thing of the past.

e5d5i5e5
e5d5i5e5

Dear Mrs. Blake,

I'm a Puerto Rican born on St. Croix, the U. S. Virgin Islands, ex-law officer of the U. S. V. I. P. D. with over 20 years of service. I moved to Houston in 2002 and left Houston, Texas because of unforseen reasons in 2011.

I presently live in Puerta De Tierra, in San Juan, P. R. and have been in P. R. for the past 1 and 1/2. What am I trying to tell you with this, The U. S. Virgin Islands is a play ground of illicit and control drugs, murders, and has one of the highest murder rates under the U. S. flag.
I hear and read the news here in Puerto Rico every day, and in reason, I shall tell you that like in my home town of St. Croix, one hundred miles to the east of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico's murder rate is exteme, and the drugs illegal and controlled are a reality.

John
John

As a Tex-a-Rican, I am sickened to see this scandalous cover story. The article has some facts, but is focused on sensationalism and has misleading analysis.

When reading the story, I kept in mind the publisher's reputation. Like the infamous New York Post tabloid (a daily), the Houston Press (a weekly) is a tacky tabloid which is supported by ads for prostitution in it's backpage. The Press frequently uses controversial subjects for covers and the cover stories are usually not the worth the time spent reading.

The following quoted sentence illustrates how the Houston Press creates a reaction. "Economic hardship begets drug-running, which begets violence, which begets a murder rate normally reserved for postcolonial power struggles." How exactly does economic hardship lead to drug running? The authors do not explain, but make the misleading statement anyway. After the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and PR government layoffs, I too was laid off. Friends and family were also layoff victims and not a single person has turned to the drug trade. The purpose of the emotional reaction created by this story is to draw attention to the tabloid and to sell ad space in the paper and create page-views for online ads.

Boricuas have been coming from the island to the mainland US, since the days of steamliners and the island's anglicized spelling was Porto Rico. I would argue the reason "educated Puerto Ricans" are emigrating to Houston is access to jobs–not the drug violence causation stated by the authors. Compare these unemployment rates: Puerto Rico 14%, (article stat) National average (50 states) 7.9 %  and Houston 6.3%.

The authors' narrative echoes the national headlines of mexican cartel coverage. And the story lumps two distinct issues–violence and employment–while largely ignoring PR's rich history of back-and-forth emigration.

I am saddened to see this story published but my expectations are extremely low when it comes to the Houston Press and Village Voice media. Please stick to your strengths–snarky top five lists–and leave the journalism to reputable editor's with integrity.
- John

Citizen2017
Citizen2017

What do you expect? In an occupied country where its people, called “American Citizens” do not matter, just like police Chief Pesquera said, "If this were anywhere else in the States, it would have created a national security crisis by now". But, Puerto Ricans are not considered a “national security issue”, as they are NOT PART OF THE U.S. BUT, A PROPERTY OF THE U.S. AND IT’S PEOPLE SECOND CLASS CITIZENS OF THE NATION THEY PURPORTEDLY BELONG TO.

As stated in this report 80% of the crime in P.R. is drug related. Since 1898; U.S. through its COLONIAL SYSTEM AND, POLICIES OF DEMOCRATIC DISENFRANCHISEMENT AND, POLITICAL APARTHEID controls how Puerto Ricans live and die. The reader should know that Puerto Rico’s borders are under the ABSOLUTE CONTROL OF THE U.S., who controls EVERYTHING that comes in, and out of, the island. Under this strict control U.S. decides from the toilet paper Puerto Ricans use to wipe off their rear, to the caskets they used to bury their dead. That’s why U.S. is the main responsible for the drug and crime wave affecting P.R. vIt’s time U.S. treat the people of P.R. as TRUE AMERICAN CITIZENS, THEY’VE EARNED IT.

JFPRico
JFPRico

I am Puerto Rican and I am astounded by this article.  I would have to agree with @bmjulia 100%.  I believe that the Houston Press, Michael E. Miller and Casey Michelowe an apology to the Puerto Rican community.

Shame on you Houston Press, Michael E. Miller and Casey Michel!

This article was written poorly and not enough credibility has been cited by lacking of supporting evidence.  The cover photo, a Puerto Rican flag covering a cadaver with running blood, is an insult to Puerto Rico and to every Puerto Rican across the world.   I am not sure what intentions the author had.  However, one thing I do know, you can rest assure that this newspaper is going to get flooded with emails and phone calls.  

Additionally, there are so many Puerto Ricans in the city that could've bee interviewed as well, shedding some new light into this so dark article.  To correct the misleading information about Puerto Ricans in Texas, as the Houston Press equivocally published, there are approximately 92,000 Puerto Ricans in Texas, not 30,000.   In Houston alone, there are well over 40,000 Puerto Ricans, according to the 2010 Census Bureau Report.   Additionally, when you publicize negative information about a country, especially if you have never been to it, do some research from credible sources and cite the source of your findings.  

Shame on you, Houston Press!  Shame on you!

You will hear from us again, demanding a public apology.

Julia Bellaflores
Julia Bellaflores

I was surprised to see this article as the cover story for this week in the Houston Press. It completely changes my perspective toward the newspaper. I guess you can try to fake you are a brave and rebel news source that goes against the grain to expose the truth in the news world, but at the end, you play the tune the money providers composed for you. To use a phrase you would probably use yourself in your paper in an attempt to create a smoke screen to make us believe you are the Robin Hood of the news in Houston, "That just makes you their bitch." Did you even read the article? It is not a well written article. There are half truths and blatant lies with no valid documentation to support its claims. I am not denying the struggles with drug trafficking in the Island. I am not denying the high incidence of criminal activity. But saying that this is a recent problem, something new, implying that "the Puerto Rico you knew in the past is no more and what we have now is this hell hole lined with beer cans and gun shells decorating the streets and populated by a majority of drug lords and their lackeys", no, the personal agenda behind this claim is so obvious it stinks. "Stop the Puerto Ricans from coming to the U.S.; they will ruin our pristine utopia." The emotional appeals used are so blatant, I will probably use them as examples of "this is what you should not do" in my classes. No disrespect to the cook at the over priced Tex Chick Puerto Rican restaurant in Montrose, but there were a few other Puerto Ricans you could have interviewed as well. Maybe some of the prominent doctors, engineers, college professors, and corporate executives that live in this City and were born and raised in the Island. Your article is irresponsible, biased, reeks of bigotry and racism, and a shame. What? Are there too many Mexicans lining your pockets that you have to pick on some other Latino group? Does the prospect of Puerto Rico being a state scare Jane, Susie, and Tom (Frisky ans Spot) so much that you have been pressured to publish this? Surely, you can't be that much of a baseball fan that this is your payback for eliminating the U.S. team. If you want to talk shit about Puerto Rico and the horrible influence we will be to the U.S., at least be responsible enough to pay a little more and have an article well written, not this mediocre propaganda you plastered all over the city. I personally will react to your stupidity by never again using your newspaper to advertise, never again reading your newspaper, and making sure I have enough copies of your shameful edition for this week to hand out to every Puerto Rican I find in Houston. The funny thing is, we aren't that many. So I guess what happened was that the authors of the article were having lunch at Tex Chick and said, "Oh, the mofongo is wonderful today!" And then the waiter informed them, "Ah, that's because we have a new cook that just moved to Houston from the Island." And at that point their mofongo got stuck in their throat and all they could think was, "The Ricans are coming, the Ricans are coming!" They wrote this piece of mierda and you were the only pendejo newspaper stupid enough to publish it. You want to write about Puerto Rico, why don't you write about the thousands of Puerto Ricans that have died serving this country? Why don't you write about the reason why every time there's a war, Puerto Ricans in the infantry are sent first as "carne de cañón", cannon meat, for those who even care to know. My father died in his 80's always proud to have been a veteran who fought in World War II. My son's father never served in the U.S. military. In his late thirties he signed up for the Army Reserve with sights of going back to school. (He fell for the famous military recruiting bait.) Guess where he was sent a few months later, just a couple of weeks after September 11th? Before any major military movement was sent to the Iraq area by continental U.S. bases, Puerto Ricans were already there, no matter what training or experience they had or not. Anyway, enough time spent on this. You are an embarrassment to new media coverage. Por mí, se pueden ir to's p'al carajo con el periodico de mierda este. Never again.

bmjulia
bmjulia

I was surprised to see this article as the cover story for this week in the Houston Press. It completely changes my perspective toward the newspaper. I guess you can try to fake you are a brave and rebel news source that goes against the grain to expose the truth in the news world, but at the end, you play the tune the money providers composed for you. To use a phrase you would probably use yourself in your paper in an attempt to create a smoke screen to make us believe you are the Robin Hood of the news in Houston, "That just makes you their bitch." Did you even read the article? It is not a well written article. There are half truths and blatant lies with no valid documentation to support its claims. I am not denying the struggles with drug trafficking in the Island. I am not denying the high incidence of criminal activity. But saying that this is a recent problem, something new, implying that "the Puerto Rico you knew in the past is no more and what we have now is this hell hole lined with beer cans and gun shells decorating the streets and populated by a majority of drug lords and their lackeys", no, the personal agenda behind this claim is so obvious it stinks. "Stop the Puerto Ricans from coming to the U.S.; they will ruin our pristine utopia." The emotional appeals used are so blatant, I will probably use them as examples of "this is what you should not do" in my classes. No disrespect to the cook at the over priced Tex Chick Puerto Rican restaurant in Montrose, but there were a few other Puerto Ricans you could have interviewed as well. Maybe some of the prominent doctors, engineers, college professors, and corporate executives that live in this City and were born and raised in the Island. Your article is irresponsible, biased, reeks of bigotry and racism, and a shame. What? Are there too many Mexicans lining your pockets that you have to pick on some other Latino group? Does the prospect of Puerto Rico being a state scare Jane, Susie, and Tom (Frisky ans Spot) so much that you have been pressured to publish this? Surely, you can't be that much of a  baseball fan that this is your payback for eliminating the U.S. team. If you want to talk shit about Puerto Rico and the horrible influence we will be to the U.S., at least be responsible enough to pay a little more and have an article well written, not this mediocre propaganda you plastered all over the city. I personally will react to your stupidity by never again using your newspaper to advertise, never again reading your newspaper, and making sure I have enough copies of your shameful edition for this week to hand out to every Puerto  Rican I find in Houston. The funny thing is, we aren't that many. So I guess what happened was that the authors of the article were having lunch at Tex Chick and said, "Oh, the mofongo is wonderful today!" And then the waiter informed them, "Ah, that's because we have a new cook that just moved to Houston from the Island." And at that point their mofongo got stuck in their throat and all they could think was, "The Ricans are coming, the Ricans are coming!" They wrote this piece of mierda and you were the only pendejo newspaper stupid enough to publish it. You want to write about Puerto Rico, why don't you write about the thousands of Puerto Ricans that have died serving this country? Why don't you write about the reason why every time there's a war, Puerto Ricans in the infantry are sent first as "carne de cañón",  cannon meat, for those who even care to know. My father died in his 80's always proud to have been a veteran who fought in World War II. My son's father never served in the U.S. military. In his late thirties he signed up for the Army Reserve with sights of going back to school. (He fell for the famous military recruiting bait.) Guess where he was sent a few months later, just a couple of weeks after September 11th? Before any major military movement was sent to the Iraq area by continental U.S. bases, Puerto Ricans were already there, no matter what training or experience they had or not. Anyway, enough time spent on this. You are an embarrassment to new media coverage. Por mí, se pueden ir to's p'al carajo con el periodico de mierda este. Never again.

bmjulia
bmjulia

I was surprised to see this article as the cover story for this week in the Houston Press. It completely changes my perspective toward the newspaper. I guess you can try to fake you are a brave and rebel news source that goes against the grain to expose the truth in the news world, but at the end, you play the tune the money providers composed for you. To use a phrase you would probably use yourself in your paper in an attempt to create a smoke screen to make us believe you are the Robin Hood of the news in Houston, "That just makes you their bitch." Did you even read the article? It is not a well written article. There are half truths and blatant lies with no valid documentation to support its claims. I am not denying the struggles with drug trafficking in the Island. I am not denying the high incidence of criminal activity. But saying that this is a recent problem, something new, implying that "the Puerto Rico you knew in the past is no more and what we have now is this hell hole lined with beer cans and gun shells decorating the streets and populated by a majority of drug lords and their lackeys", no, the personal agenda behind this claim is so obvious it stinks. "Stop the Puerto Ricans from coming to the U.S.; they will ruin our pristine utopia." The emotional appeals used are so blatant, I will probably use them as examples of "this is what you should not do" in my classes. No disrespect to the cook at the over priced Tex Chick Puerto Rican restaurant in Montrose, but there were a few other Puerto Ricans you could have interviewed as well. Maybe some of the prominent doctors, engineers, college professors, and corporate executives that live in this City and were born and raised in the Island. Your article is irresponsible, biased, reeks of bigotry and racism, and a shame. What? Are there too many Mexicans lining your pockets that you have to pick on some other Latino group? Does the prospect of Puerto Rico being a state scare Jane, Susie, and Tom (Frisky ans Spot) so much that you have been pressured to publish this? Surely, you can't be that much of a  baseball fan that this is your payback for eliminating the U.S. team. If you want to talk shit about Puerto Rico and the horrible influence we will be to the U.S., at least be responsible enough to pay a little more and have an article well written, not this mediocre propaganda you plastered all over the city. I personally will react to your stupidity by never again using your newspaper to advertise, never again reading your newspaper, and making sure I have enough copies of your shameful edition for this week to hand out to every Puerto  Rican I find in Houston. The funny thing is, we aren't that many. So I guess what happened was that the authors of the article were having lunch at Tex Chick and said, "Oh, the mofongo is wonderful today!" And then the waiter informed them, "Ah, that's because we have a new cook that just moved to Houston from the Island." And at that point their mofongo got stuck in their throat and all they could think was, "The Ricans are coming, the Ricans are coming!" They wrote this piece of mierda and you were the only pendejo newspaper stupid enough to publish it. You want to write about Puerto Rico, why don't you write about the thousands of Puerto Ricans that have died serving this country? Why don't you write about the reason why every time there's a war, Puerto Ricans in the infantry are sent first as "carne de cañón",  cannon meat, for those who even care to know. My father died in his 80's always proud to have been a veteran who fought in World War II. My son's father never served in the U.S. military. In his late thirties he signed up for the Army Reserve with sights of going back to school. (He fell for the famous military recruiting bait.) Guess where he was sent a few months later, just a couple of weeks after September 11th? Before any major military movement was sent to the Iraq area by continental U.S. bases, Puerto Ricans were already there, no matter what training or experience they had or not. Anyway, enough time spent on this. You are an embarrassment to new media coverage. Por mí, se pueden ir to's p'al carajo con el periodico de mierda este. Never again.

adaJ
adaJ

Parece mentira!!  If ignorance was a language then Roadgeek would be bilingual!  My fiance has relatives in Puerto Rico and they do report that the crime and unemployment is the worse they've seen.  It's a shame that drugs are defacing even the paradises of the world.  Statehood or independence is necessary for the beautiful PR but to say such atrocities is ignorant.  Latinos and Hispanics, American or not, bilingual or not, make America rich in countless ways!  Tremendous achievement and influence in history education sports food art culture entertainment government military medical you name it - through the ages!  Some people need to wake up and smell the coffee.  I'm happy for your comment franynapo thanks for standing up! 

franynapo
franynapo

Dear roadgeek please allow me to shed some light into your blunt ignorance. First of all, what Puerto Ricans have you personally met? And where are you getting your statistics regarding the number of us that are able to speak English? Let me ask you something else, how many languages do you fluently speak? Most of us do know English, and most of us hold at least a College degree, I personally hold a PhD Degree. Most of the Puerto Ricans I am sorround myself with are either Engineers, MDs or PhDs. That will account for one of the many benefits US can obtain from PR, and with this I am not even implying that I am Pro-Statehood. Take a drive around Washington DC, just to give you an example, and stop by the NRC, and let me spell it out for you, as I am sure you don't know what it stands for, Nuclear Regulation Comission, and count the numbers of engineers working there that were born and raise in PR, or perhaps stop by right there in DC, stop by the National Institute of Health (NIH), and tell me how many PhDs and Dr directing different research programs. The same goes for the US Department of Agriculture, or the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, and these is just to name a few. And it is true, there is a lot of crime in my lovely Island, but take a look at Detroit in Michigan, or Baltimore in Maryland, and look at their worldwide positions in the worst crime cities, they are right there next to us. In terms of language, and territories, PR has two official languages, being Spanish and English both. Please learn that: "We may speak with an accent, but we don't think with one". Have a lovely day.

roadgeek
roadgeek

Roque, an American citizen who doesn't speak English.  And neither do most other Puerto Ricans.  Yet a great many of them want full statehood for the island.  What does it profit the rest of the United States to admit a territory where most of the citizens speak Spanish as their primary language?  Isn't English the language of assimiliation and success in the United States?

Ian T. Komouss
Ian T. Komouss

The interesting thing is that legally, it practically has all of the same rights of a state with a few exceptions.

franynapo
franynapo

@e5d5i5e5 Don't confuse a puertorrican with a new yorican

bmjulia
bmjulia

@e5d5i5e5 But if you re-read my post, I am not denying that. What I find offensive is their propaganda strategy to report this like if it were something new. I've lived in Puerto Rico most of my life; I know what has been going on back home because of the drugs. But this is not new. I've been saying for decades, "Puerto Rico is number 2 in the US in criminal activity per capita, and we are doing everything we can to be number 1." But, don't turn this around to state that the Puerto Ricans coming to the U.S. are the overflow of drug dealers and criminals from the Island. That is absolutely not true; if anything it is the opposite.

chelo.boricuazo
chelo.boricuazo

@Lisa Devereaux It is a country but it doesn't have sovereignty, learn more human geography, cultural studies, national identities and you might have a better idea.  

HPRS
HPRS

@JFPRico @bmjulia How the HELL is this offensive to Puerto Rico, if this is the ABSOLUTE TRUTH? Do you not read the papers? Do you NOT live here? Puerto Rico has become a CESSPOOL. Try driving to your home in a 2 hr traffic jam; a gridlock, bumper to bumper, every single day, and have a guy slip past you on your right shoulderside. Honk your horn and don't let him pass, and he will PULL a gun on you. This has happened to me 2 times, and I have seen it happen to other people as well... Did you forget Stephano, from Dorado, who got rear ended and then MURDERED in cold blood just because the perp liked his car?

The problem? Puerto Ricans. And no matter where we move, we TAKE with us what we have learned in our societal upbringing. Puerto Rico is paradise ruined by Puerto Ricans. The Flag covering the body is not too far from the truth, sadly.

Notbiased
Notbiased

@bmjulia  Exactly. Please let every boricua know about this awful racist article. Do you have an email address? Let's talk.

donnybrook11
donnybrook11

@roadgeek What are you doing man?  Puerto Ricans are born in Puerto Rico are US citizens and since we don't have an official language, why should they be able to speak English.  However, if you checked around you'd find most most Puerto Ricans speak English, some better than others, but still . . . Puerto Ricans are already in the US and many are third and fourth generation born in the country.  What about crime, you say.  How about pulling the stats on Chicago, Detroit, Philly, Baltimore, East Los Angeles, Southcentral Los Angeles, and Oakland.  Many of the Puerto Ricans I know or who I've met served in the armed forces of the US.  You're on the wrong track. 

glinkberle
glinkberle

@Ian T. Komouss  

Exceptions which include no political power to make the Federal Government to do it's job which is to guard the frontiers and coastal waters of the US and it's territories which is it's responsibility or even assign enough resources to combat the crime problem they created by tightening controls at the Mexican border...controls the do not peform on Puerto Rico and which are their responsibility as Federal Government.

franynapo
franynapo

@Bubba @franynapo Perhaps the ones you sorround yourself with. Learn how to choose your acquaintances better. It takes one to recognize the other.

 
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