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Is Puerto Rico becoming a narco-state?

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With over 1,000 murders in Puerto Rico this year, some commentators have warned that the US territory is on the verge of becoming a "narco-state" that has been infiltrated by the drug trade.

Amid this record high in homicides and lagging police reform, a recent article in the Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia said that the US territory is on the verge of becoming a "narco-state." The article lists 15 characteristics of narco-states, as defined by the United Nations, and concludes that 12 of them apply to Puerto Rico.

There is good reason for concern about Puerto Rico. The island is set to record the highest murder rate on record, beating the previous highest, which was 1994. In September, a top official at the US Justice Department called Puerto Rico's police force "one of the worst I've seen."

But not only is El Nuevo Dia playing fast and loose with the definition of a narco-state, it is blowing Puerto Rico's crime problem out of proportion. It's true that police suffer widespread corruption in their ranks, but not that drug traffickers have infiltrated state forces so deeply that they are dictating policy and openly backing politicians. Suriname is a good example of such a scenario, as is Colombia in the early 1990s. State institutions in Guatemala and Honduras, for example, have been supplanted by drug cartels to a far more serious degree than Puerto Rico.

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