Implications of Puerto Rico being a popular drug smuggling origin

Keith Richards waiting in US CustomsI don't know how many times I've read it before, but it's always tacked on to any news article about the most recent massacre or crime in general in Puerto Rico. As the news of the latest tragedy hit the Associated Press, there it was again:

An estimated 30 percent of drugs reaching the U.S. come through the Caribbean, with Puerto Rico a popular transshipment point because drugs do not have to clear customs to reach the mainland.
However, when I read it this time, a light bulb flickered on inside my head. If the purported root cause of the violence, crime, and mayhem in Puerto Rico was directly linked to Puerto Rico's popularity as a transhipment point for drugs, then why don't we change Puerto Rico's classification? Why don't the travel and shipping authorities change Puerto Rico to become an International destination and origin?

That way, all of the travelers going between Puerto Rico and the United States would be forced to comply with the rules and procedures of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In addition, all cargo shipments from Puerto Rico to the United States would also face the same scrutiny as those from Mexico, Columbia, or Turkey.

Pros and Cons

Of course, this means placing a significant burden upon the millions of travelers that leave our ports and airports. For any business travelers, this would be a steep price to pay. However, I think it may be the only chance we have, besides decriminalizing cocaine and marijuana in Puerto Rico, to increase the safety of our citizens. Although, after looking at the data, I bet that if Puerto Rico would decriminalize drugs, we STILL wouldn't see any significant reduction in the crime rate.

In the past, I think that it has been easy to miss the larger point that dawned on me when I read about the massacre in Toa Baja. While we have the perfect storm conditions for a large drug trafficking trade in to Puerto Rico (high welfare, large cash economy, corruption, and high supply of drugs), it pales in comparison to the profit generated from controlling the major drug trafficking which flows through Puerto Rico.

In my opinion, the high number of murders and violence in Puerto Rico are not caused by the mere trafficking of drugs into the island, but the trafficking of drugs through the island.

Then you also have to consider, if Puerto Rico is a popular place to smuggle drugs into the United States, then what else is being smuggled into the US? Maybe guns, maybe even weapons of mass destruction. Of course, that is unthinkable, but it is difficult to deny the logic.


Sometimes the simplest solution to a problem is right in front of our noses. Sometimes it just takes being hit over the head with that solution one more time before the gears and tumblers fall into place to reveal the answer to our problems. I'm sure that's what happened here. I'm so confident about this, I can feel it in my bones.

Just to check my conclusion, I've compiled a spreadsheet comparing population to homicide rate. Per person, Puerto Rico exceeds all other states in homicides. For the data I was able to quickly compile, in 2005, Puerto Rico had twice as many murders per person than the highest of any other state, in this case Louisiana.

Puerto Rico is probably just like any other densely populated state. The number of drug users has to be relatively the same. So why the huge spike in murders? There can be only one answer. While there may be millions available to people willing to sell drugs within Puerto Rico, there HAS TO BE hundreds of millions available to whoever controls the shipment of drugs TO the US.

I'm so convinced that I'm right, I'm going to initiate a campaign to communicate with all of the authorities that might be able to take action on this information. My challenge is to figure out who to contact, and how to get this information into their hands. Wish me luck, the future of crime reduction on the island may depend on my success. Hmm, who knew, MC Don Dees would become a crime fighter?

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Marcos Polanco

21 de octubre de 2009, 17:00
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You have correctly identified the issue, and it should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the federal government because it is a national security issue. They should be able to protect our coastlines (and Vieques, a popular drop-off) from speedboats and planes delivering their deadly cargo. UAVs and latest technology must be deployed to this purpose before it reaches us. All sorts of equity and interstate commerce elements come into play the moment you decide to place a security fence between Puerto Rico and the states, so that will not happen. Also, note that drug shipment is paid for, not in cash, but in merchandise, so that is the source of our internal problem.


21 de octubre de 2009, 17:16
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Interesting post but a bit misleading. Ill divide my reply in a few bullets to keep it short:

(1) Tourism accounts for a lot of the GDP in Puerto Rico. If you make Puerto Rico an international destination you will now compete more directly vs Antigua, Jamaica, Dom Rep, etc for the American tourists... btw.. Puerto Rico is more expensive to visit than these other countries so you would certainly see a decline in tourism which means less $ and less jobs.

(2) I would wager that the higher homicide/crime rate in Puerto Rico is a direct result of the poor education system.

I am willing to bet you will find a strong correlation in Education vs Crime Rate/Muerder Rate.

60% of Puerto Ricans have a high school degree and only 18% have a bachelors or higher. Drop out rate is close to 40% and government programs are lackuster and poorly implemented.

Puerto Rico is in the bottom 5 "states" of the US when it comes to education.

(3) Same as above but look at GDP per Capita. Puerto Rico has the lowest GDP per capita in the US... a lot lower than Missisipi (2nd lowest).

Its a viscious circle:
Bad Education --> Poor Governments (elected democratically) --> Bad Management --> Poor Results...

If PR was not part of the US it would be on the same level as Dom Rep.

MC Don Dees

22 de octubre de 2009, 09:31
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Thank you both (Marcos and Scylas) for participating and sharing your perspectives.

What worries me most is that only when a crime of the magnitude of Toa Baja occurs, does the problem of drugs or drug trafficking get discussed.

In my eyes, this problem is a cancer that grows within our community. Without new ideas, new solutions, new "treatments", and the willingness to recognize the relationship this disease has with many of our other problems, then we give this disease free reign to ravage our communities.

Gil C. Schmidt

23 de octubre de 2009, 21:50
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Your solution--and it is a solution--takes the drug interdiction/faux war that We are losing to the extreme of "more": more police, more patrols, more "security," more restrictions, etc.

What about the other extreme, the "less"? Legalize drugs. The few examples We have (in Europe) seem to favor a "less is more" approach. On the other hand, the European experiments are in countries with vastly lower murder rates than Ours, and though that might argue for the "less" (We have kids dying by the hundreds so Let's DO something), it speaks of an experiment in a different "lab."

MC Don Dees

23 de octubre de 2009, 22:46
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Having become a huge fan of "Weeds" I'm all for compassionate care through medical marijuana boutiques.

I'm not sure what it really implies by changing Puerto Rico to an international origin. While Marcos seems to know more about the equity and interstate commerce implications, I have to admit that I thought it seemed simple.

Think of it this way, I assume that Customs does a reasonable job catching drugs shipped from Turkey, Afghanistan, Columbia, why don't we just make cargo shipments from Puerto Rico go through the same control points?

Your idea would only work if the US, as a whole, decriminalized drugs. And that will never happen. Why, there's too much money in it for those waging the war against drugs. Funny, I wonder why they don't include the war on drugs when they're counting the number of wars we're fighting?

Here's a simple thought experiment to illustrate the stupidity of the war on drugs. If we win, what ever that means, who will be surrendering to US?


31 de octubre de 2009, 12:16
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what you're writting is a true that we the people of Puerto Rico have to live, but why? people that had never lived here say that the drug that enter the USA is tru P.R. I Know that it is easear to bleame some one, rather to realize that the USA have same problem that we do, poor security. It hurt alot because we are good people and offer the turist alot of kinnes and love, and this is the way the US cittizen paid us, no matter what the outsider said we are "The Isla Del Encanto" and we are proud of it.