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Puerto Rico: Enclave of Latin American Drug Trafficking

Pedro A. Rivera  |  Issue: August | September 2015
Another victim of dependency or illegal drug abuse

Another victim of dependency or illegal drug abuse.
PHOTOS: Pedro A. Rivera


At the beginning of July this year, two senators in the current colonial government of Puerto Rico made a proposal to decriminalize people or groups involved in cases of overdoses of illegal substances, pointing out that at least 100 persons die every year from opiate overdoses.  This estimate, very high compared to that of other countries, is symptomatic of the number of users addicted to the drug trade’s product.  On the other hand, the subject of drug trafficking has lost ground in the news to that of drug addiction.

In 2008, around 111,000 people between 15 and 74 years of age suffered from abuse of or dependency on illegal substances, according to estimates made by the Mental Health and Addiction Services Administration (ASSMCA in Spanish).  According to more recent numbers, the drug trade’s client population has not gone down.  Hector Colon, a researcher in the University of Puerto Rico, found that more heavily dependent drug users, numbering about 40,000, spent about 3 million dollars to satisfy their deadly habit.  Drug trade profits have not diminished either, with the trade impacting approximately one third of all economic activity in Puerto Rico.

In the face of this situation, a growing number of social scientists, doctors, and community activists are pointing out the need for addressing the issue of drug addiction as a public health problem rather than a criminal one.  But local press coverage has been saturated with news of the drought, economic collapse, and financial bankruptcy since the start of summer.  Meanwhile, the headlines on the war against drug trafficking have given way to a temporary amnesia until further notice.  The fact is that in countries such as Portugal drug consumption has decreased dramatically in less than a decade after having decriminalized the use of illegal drugs and addressed it as a health and public education question.  This has eliminated the need there for mass incarceration and reduced the cases of HIV by 75%, overdoses by 40%, and deaths related to the use of and trade in illegal drugs by 60%.

However, in Puerto Rico, where the economic and political forces gaining from the capitalist drug trade are apparently much more powerful than in Portugal, the focus on the problem of the victims of the trade continues to favor those who profit by it:  the prison industry, corrupt politicians and police, and, of course, the whole cabal of business and finance capitalists who launder the money of the mulit-millionaire drug traffickers.  Meanwhile, the social wealth produced by us workers in every field is being squandered, and the horde of vultures that live off of the drug trade feed on the corpses of our children in the main hall of the temple of private property and big capital.

Come to your own conclusions, dear readers.  Reflect and ask yourselves which is the real crime?  Who are the true criminals?  Who the true friends and enemies in this hypocritical and ill-named war against drugs?

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