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As violent Puerto Rican drug trade seeps into mainland US, Washington must act

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As drug interdiction in the US-Mexico border has intensified, drug traffic has been redirected to Caribbean routes. While the Southwest border continues to be the primary entry point, Puerto Rico is the Caribbean gateway for cocaine and heroin entering the continental US. Once shipments reach Puerto Rico, mostly via the Dominican Republic, a portion is set aside for local consumption. The remainder, as high as 80 percent of the total in the case of cocaine, is directed to East Coast cities in continental US.

Over the past three years, federal agencies have noted an increase in drug and weapons seizures in Puerto Rico. The National Drug Intelligence Center reported a 76 percent increase in cocaine seizures in the Puerto Rico and US Virgin Island area between 2009 and 2010. A drop in cocaine prices between 2008 and 2010 in Puerto Rico suggests an increase in cocaine availability on the street.

In 2011, Puerto Rican cocaine rings operating in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York were shut down. In January, two Puerto Rican men were arrested in Boston’s Logan Airport smuggling $128,000 worth of cocaine. Days later, agents apprehended Dominican smugglers arriving by boat in Puerto Rico with 924 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of $60 million. Last week, another boat was intercepted off the west coast of Puerto Rico with a $4.9 million cocaine shipment.

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