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More must be done to arrest Caribbean drug trade says US | Caribbean drug trafficking boom predicted as Latin America cracks down

More must be done to arrest Caribbean drug trade says US

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imageThe State Department described Guyana as a transit country for cocaine destined for the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and West Africa.
Nelson A. King 
WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Saturday March 16, 2013 - Though Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have made significant efforts in addressing the burgeoning drug trade, the United States says more still needs to be done.
In its 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released here this week, the US Department of State lauded general efforts being made, but was very critical of what it regarded as inefficient measures implemented in some countries.
The US said that Jamaica remains the largest Caribbean supplier of marijuana to the United States, adding that while cocaine and synthetic drugs are not produced locally, the country is a transit point for drugs trafficked from South America to North America and other international markets.
It said that, in 2012, drug production and trafficking were both “enabled and accompanied by organized crime, domestic and international gang activity, and police and government corruption,” adding that the gun trade for illicit drugs “exacerbated the problem as handguns moved into the country in exchange for drugs”.
Washington said marijuana from Jamaica is “increasingly being trafficked to Caribbean nations as well” and that “some Central American drug trafficking organizations exchange Jamaican marijuana for cocaine”.
The State Department said while the Jamaica government and law enforcement authorities are committed to combating narcotics and illicit trafficking, their efforts were “only moderately effective in 2012 because of a lack of sufficient resources, corruption, and an inefficient criminal justice system”.
It noted that high-profile organized crime gangs continued to “successfully operate within Jamaica”  with gangs “sometimes afforded community tolerance or protection and, in some cases, support through police corruption”.
The State Department described Guyana as a transit country for cocaine destined for the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and West Africa.
It said cocaine originating in Colombia is smuggled to Venezuela and onward to Guyana by sea or air and that smugglers also transit land borders with Brazil, Venezuela, and Suriname.
“The influence of narcotics trafficking is evident in the political and criminal justice systems,” it said, stating that the value of cocaine seized by Guyanese authorities in 2011, the last year for which statistics are available, totalled US$42 million.
The report said traffickers are attracted by Guyana’s “poorly monitored ports, remote airstrips, intricate river networks, porous land borders, and weak security sector capacity”.
The report noted that the government has passed legislation to enable a ?more-effective? response to the threat of drug trafficking, pointing out that The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act of 2009, the Interception of Communications Bill, and the Criminal Procedure Bill were designed to enhance the investigative capabilities of law enforcement authorities and prosecutors to convict drug traffickers.
“To date, however, the government has sought no prosecutions under these laws.”
The report said Suriname is a transit zone for South American cocaine en route to Europe, Africa and, to a lesser extent, the United States and that the Dutch-speaking Caribbean country’s sparsely populated coastal region and isolated jungle interior, together with weak border controls and infrastructure, “make narcotics detection and interdiction efforts difficult”.
The State Department said while the Surinamese government is committed to combating illegal narcotics trafficking, as a matter of policy, “Suriname’s practical ability to apprehend and prosecute narcotics traffickers remains inhibited by drug-related corruption, bureaucratic hurdles, and inadequate legislation”.
Washington said Belize is a major trans-shipment country for cocaine and precursor chemicals used in the production of synthetic drugs, adding that, due to its position along the Central American isthmus, the country is “susceptible” to the trans-shipment of cocaine between drug producing countries in South America and the United States, as well as chemicals bound for processing into finished drugs in Mexico.
It estimated that more than 80 per cent of the primary flow of the cocaine trafficked to the United States first transited through the Central American corridor in 2012, with large stretches of remote, unpopulated jungles on Belize’s borders with Guatemala allow smuggling of cannabis and synthetic drugs.
“A relatively unpatrolled coastline, including hundreds of small islands and atolls, make maritime drug interdiction difficult,” said the report, stating that Belize is “bordered by countries where the drug trade is controlled by organized and violent drug cartels.
“Belize’s overall counter-narcotics efforts suffer deficiencies in intelligence gathering, analysis, and capacity of the judicial sector, in addition to corruption and inadequate political will.
“A lack of resources, weak law enforcement institutions, an ineffective judicial system, and inadequate compensation for civil service employees and public safety officials combined to provide a facilitating environment for illegal activities,” the report said, noting that “Belize lacks laws that specifically address narcotics-related corruption”.
The State Department said that Trinidad and Tobago’s location, porous borders, and direct transportation routes to Europe, West Africa, Canada, and the United States make it “an ideal location” for cocaine and marijuana trans-shipment.
It said while drug production and use in the twin-island republic centers on marijuana, other drugs, including cocaine, heroin, solvents, pharmaceuticals, and ecstasy, are also available.
The report noted that government in Port of Spain has “long struggled to effectively coordinate and adequately fund its counter-narcotics efforts” and that interdiction efforts are “robust and continuing”.
It noted however that overall seizures in 2012 were down from 2011.
The report said that Trinidad and Tobago’s drug control institutions continue to be challenged by deficiencies in staffing, organization, funding, and interagency communication.
“The entities and individuals working to combat narcotics in Trinidad and Tobago face considerable challenges and insufficient support from political leadership,. Additional reforms are necessary to expedite case prosecution, revise outdated laws, and establish an evidence-based criminal justice system as fundamental prerequisites for raising conviction rates and deterring traffickers,” the report added.
The State Department said the Bahamas is not a significant drug producing country but remains a transit point for illegal drugs bound for the United States and other international markets.
It said the Bahamas’ close proximity to the coast of Florida, as well as Caribbean drug trans-shipment routes, makes it a “natural conduit” for drug smuggling and that the country’s  700 islands and cays - the vast majority of which are uninhabited - provide “near ideal conditions for illicit smuggling”.
The State Department said smugglers “readily blend in among the armada of pleasure craft traveling throughout the Bahamas archipelago spanning 100,000-square nautical miles”.
Regarding the seven independent Eastern Caribbean countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the United States said they host “abundant trans-shipment points for illicit narcotics, primarily from Colombia and Venezuela destined for North American, European and domestic Caribbean markets.
It said traffickers are increasingly using yachts for drug transit, though “go-fast” boats, fishing trawlers, and freighters continue to serve as transit vessels.
The report said drug-related crime rates “remain elevated as more drugs remain in the region for local consumption, and organized gangs have formed to control drug distribution” and that marijuana remains a staple crop, primarily for local use.
The State Department said three years of declining macroeconomic growth has left Eastern Caribbean law enforcement capacity “further under-resourced than during previous reporting periods, a condition exacerbated by antiquated criminal codes and public perception of corruption in the ranks”.
It said the Eastern Caribbean struggles with communication and cooperation between states.
“The lack of regional or national law enforcement strategic plans, including comprehensive vetting programmes, creates a vulnerability to narcotics-related corruption,”  it said, adding that the Eastern Caribbean also continues to struggle with a lack of adequate infrastructure for counter-narcotics maritime patrols.
It said while each Eastern Caribbean police force has a mandate to interdict drugs and share information and intelligence with regional and international counterparts, law enforcement authorities “lack the capacity and resources to undertake systematic counter-narcotics operations”.
The report said that continued declining regional economic growth and increasing unemployment have led to increasing marijuana consumption and cultivation, according to host nation officials.
It said cannabis cultivation “predominates in the mountainous regions of St. Vincent, where production may rival Jamaica, according to unofficial US Drug Enforcement Administration estimates”.
The report said St. Kitts and Nevis officials claim locally-produced cannabis is “gaining a foothold on the market with exports predicted to rise,” and that Grenada also reports “an increase in marijuana and cocaine transiting from St. Vincent and Trinidad, respectively”.
The State Department urged the Eastern Caribbean countries to embrace the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and to fulfil their monetary commitments to sustain the Regional Security System (RSS).
“The United States further encourages the seven nations to pass legislation to modernize their criminal codes, making use of regional best practices in fighting transnational organized crime and lauds Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and Grenada in their progress in this area,” the report said.
The State Department said Haiti remains a transit point for cocaine from South America and marijuana from Jamaica for transshipment to the United States, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere in the Caribbean.
The report said Haiti is not a significant producer of illicit drugs for export, though cultivation of marijuana for local consumption occurs. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)
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Caribbean drug trafficking boom predicted as Latin America cracks down

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imageThe Caribbean made up about five percent of the cocaine reaching the US in 2010, with that figure estimated to jump to 10 percent this year.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Friday April 5, 2013 – William Brownfield, a top US State Department official, has predicted that the Caribbean is likely to see a surge in drug-trafficking activity by 2015 as operations out of Central America dwindle due to an international crackdown.
Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, said he believes drug traffickers squeezed out of Mexico, Central America and South America will target the Caribbean because it's spacious and allows them to remain undercover and take advantage of weak law enforcement in certain countries.
"We're dealing with 14 different countries spread across a large area," he said. "Drug traffickers are looking for very vulnerable holes."
The State Department official was speaking on Wednesday during a visit to Puerto Rico, where he met with local and federal authorities to talk in part about the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, which aims to boost regional security with US funding aid.
In the upcoming fiscal year, Congress has allocated US$40 million for the programme. The new funds will be available by August and distributed after the top priorities are identified, according to Brownfield.
While a group of US agencies and Caribbean governments decide how the money will be spent, the State Department official supports using the funds to build regional programmes and centres that would benefit all Caribbean nations.
He would like to see the establishment of a police training centre, a maritime training centre possibly based in Puerto Rico and an aviation centre featuring four to six helicopters that could be stationed across the region, targeting popular drug-trafficking routes.
Brownfield also favours the idea of a Caribbean-based communication interceptions centre aimed at uncovering how illegal money and drugs are being moved. He nevertheless noted that establishing such a centre could prove difficult because its operations might not be legal in certain Caribbean nations.
Funds disbursed in the past have gone toward building a regional centre in Barbados for exchanging ballistics information, and another centre for identifying and processing fingerprints.
The Caribbean made up about five percent of the cocaine reaching the United States in 2010, jumping to eight percent in the past year, and is estimated to escalate to 10 percent this year, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Officials estimate that six percent alone is shipped through the Dominican Republic.
Cocaine use has dropped in the United States, but has skyrocketed in Brazil, Argentina and Western Europe. The new demand means traffickers are shipping drugs across the Atlantic into West Africa and then north into Europe, Brownfield said. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)
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WNU #1180: Mexican Army Rescues 165 Kidnapped Migrants

Defense Appropriations Act Includes Pierluisi Language Requiring Department of Defense to Report on Current and Future Efforts to Combat Drug-Related Violence in Puerto Rico

WNU #1180: Mexican Army Rescues 165 Kidnapped Migrants

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Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1180, June 9, 2013

1. Mexico: Army Rescues 165 Kidnapped Migrants
2. Brazil: Top Indigenous Official Resigns as Conflicts Continue
3. Argentina: Eight Activists Arrested in Mining Protest
4. Panama: Campesinos Demonstrate Against Dams
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. It is archived at For a subscription, write to Follow us on Twitter at

Note: There will be links but no Update on June 16, 2013. Publication will resume the following week.

*1. Mexico: Army Rescues 165 Kidnapped Migrants
On June 4 Mexican army soldiers freed 165 people, mostly Central Americans, who the authorities said had been held for as much as three weeks by an unidentified criminal organization at a safe house in the Las Fuentes neighborhood in Gustavo Díaz Ordaz municipality, a few miles from the US border in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas. One person, apparently a lookout for the kidnappers, was arrested. The captives were reportedly migrants who were planning to cross illegally into the US; the smugglers (“polleros”) they had hired may have turned them over to a criminal group, possibly the Gulf drug cartel or the Los Zetas gang.

According to the government, the group kidnapped was composed of 77 Salvadorans, 50 Guatemalans, 23 Hondurans, 14 Mexicans and one Indian national. There were 20 minors, including seven under the age of 13; two of the women migrants were pregnant. The federal National Migration Institute (INM) removed the 151 foreign nationals to Mexico City and began deporting them on June 7.

The June 4 rescue was the second largest such operation reported by the government to date, but the kidnapping of migrants—either for ransom or to be used as drug couriers--has become increasingly common over the past few years. In January 2009 a total of 189 Central Americans were found hidden in Reynosa, Tamaulipas; the kidnappers were demanding a $5,000 ransom for each. A military operation rescued 88 migrants in Arriaga in the southeastern state of Chiapas in 2010; 54 kidnapped migrants were found in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state’s capital, in March of this year. Some 11,000 migrants were kidnapped in just six months in 2010, according to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). The most notorious case occurred in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, in August 2010, when a Los Zetas group massacred 72 Central and South American migrants who refused to turn over their cash or work for the gang [see World War 4 Report 8/24/10].

Alberto Xicoténcatl, director of the Migrant House shelter in Saltillo, Coahuila, warned that the kidnapping of migrants is on the rise, partly because of complicity by government employees. “We know that the army goes to the [criminal groups’] safe houses and gets paid to keep quiet,” he told the Mexican daily La Jornada. “What happened a few days ago in Tamaulipas was a matter of an accidental discovery and didn’t result from a real investigation.” The military found the 165 kidnap victims because of a tip from a civilian. (New York Daily News 6/6/13La Jornada (Mexico) 6/7/13,6/9/136/9/13)

Foreign nationals aren’t the only victims; thousands of Mexicans are being murdered or kidnapped each year. The Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) reported on Feb. 26 that 26,121 people disappeared in the 2006-2012 period. The British-based human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) released a 16-page report in Mexico City on June 4 citing the “systematic failure” of the government in dealing with the phenomenon. The report, “Confronting a Nightmare: The Disappearance of People in Mexico,” noted the complicity or responsibility of government employees in many of the cases. AI reviewed 152 disappearances for the report; in 85 of them “there are sufficient signs of the implication of public officials… and of a lack of diligence on the part of the authorities to locate the victims.” (LJ 6/5/13Los Angeles Times 2/16/13)

In other news, the bodies of three activists in the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) were found on June 3 beside a road in the southwestern state of Guerrero. One of the victims, Arturo Hernández Cardona, was the leader of the Popular Union (UP) in the city of Iguala; the other two, Félix Rafael Bandera Román and Ángel Román Ramírez, were members of the organization. The men were last seen on May 30 when they blocked a tollbooth on the Mexico City-Acapulco highway to demand that Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca Velázquez, also a PRD member, provide fertilizers for campesinos. Media reports suggest that the killings might have been a common crime, since drug gangs are active in Guerrero. But Sofía Lorena Mendoza Martínez, Hernández Cardona’s widow, insisted the motivation was political. “[W]e are never going to accept that [the victims] could be linked to organized crime,” said Mendoza Martínez, who is a local rural development official. Some1,000 people attended the three activists’ funeral on June 4. (BBC News 6/3/13LJ 6/5/13)

*2. Brazil: Top Indigenous Official Resigns as Conflicts Continue
Security guards shot and seriously injured an indigenous Terena, Josiel Gabriel Alves, on June 4 when a group of about 60 protesters tried to occupy the São Sebastião estate in Sidrolandia municipality in the southern Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Doctors said Gabriel might lose the use of his arms and legs. This was the second shooting in less than a week in an ongoing dispute over lands claimed by the Terena: Osiel Gabriel, Josiel Gabriel’s cousin, was killed by federal police on May 30 at a nearby estate [see Update #1179]. The Terena have been occupying several large estates in Sidrolandia since May 15; they say the estates are on land the federal government designated as indigenous territory in 2010. The 28,000 Terena live on just 20,000 hectares in Mato Grosso. (Adital (Brazil) 6/5/13)

On June 6 Terena activists joined with representatives of the Munduruku indigenous group for protests at government offices in Brasilia. The Munduruku are among eight indigenous groups that have repeatedly occupied construction sites at the Belo Monte dam in the northern Brazilian state of Pará over the past year; the most recent occupation took place on May 28. The protests have held up work on the dam, which is projected to be the world’s third largest when completed. Some 140 Munduruku were in Brasilia for a meeting with Presidency Minister Gilberto Carvalho and other government officials on June 4. Valdenir Munduruku, a spokesperson for the group, told Brazilian media that the activists are demanding a complete halt of construction until indigenous people in the region have been consulted on the project, as required by International Labor Organization (ILO)Convention 169. Brazil has signed on to the convention, which guarantees a number of rights for indigenous people, including the right to prior consultation on projects that will affect their communities. The Munduruku are threatening to resume the occupation if they aren’t satisfied with the results of negotiations.

Brazil recognizes 305 different ethnic groups, representing some 896,900 indigenous people, less than 0.5% of Brazil’s 194 million citizens; officially designated indigenous lands take up about 12% of the national territory. The protests in Mato Grosso and Pará confront Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff with the most serious indigenous conflicts since she took office in January 2011. On June 7 the president of the government’s National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), Marta Azevedo, announced her resignation. FUNAI is the agency responsible for Brazil’s indigenous policies. Azevedo cited health problems. (Agência Brasil 6/7/13 via Ultimo Segundo (Brazil); TeleSUR 6/7/13, some from AFP)

*3. Argentina: Eight Activists Arrested in Mining Protest
The Argentine branch of the international environmental organization Greenpeace marked World Environment Day--a United Nations-sponsored event held each year on June 5--with a protest highlighting damage that the pro-mining policies of José Luis Gioja [see Update #1162], governor of the northwestern province of San Juan, could have on Argentina’s San Guillermo Biosphere Reserve. Eight Greenpeace activists climbed the Civic Center building in the city of San Juan and unfurled a 20-meter banner with a photograph of a puma and a caption reading: “Gioja: no mining in San Guillermo.” The activists were arrested and taken to the central police station.

The Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation has two open-pit gold mines in San Juan province: the Veladero mine and the massive Pascua Lama mine, still under construction, which extends from San Juan province into Chile’s Huasco province. San Juan province also hosts part of the large San Guillermo reserve, which includes both swampy lowlands of the Chaco region and Andean highlands. Greenpeace says that Barrick’s mining projects endanger Andean glaciers, a major source of water for the region, and the animals and vegetation in the reserve; the group has launched a “Save the San Guillermo Campaign” and as of June 5 had gathered more than 320,000 signatures from Argentine citizens on an internet petition. Barrick insists that the mines won’t affect the reserve.

On May 24 rightwing Chilean president Sebastián Piñera’s government ordered construction work suspended on the Chilean section of the Pascua Lama mine; the project’s completion may be postponed for years [see Update #1179]. In Argentina the center-left government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner continues to back the massive open-pit mining projects that environmental activists refer to as “mega-mining.” Greenpeace’s June 5 demonstration fell on a day when Gov. Gioja, a Fernández ally, and national officials were scheduled to present a “Plan for Management of the San Guillermo Reserve.” Once the plan is approved, San Juan province will receive $7 million from Barrick designated for care of the reserve. (Perfil (Buenos Aires) 6/5/13Adital (Brazil) 6/5/13)

*4. Panama: Campesinos Demonstrate Against Dams
Members of 27 campesino communities in the San Francisco district of Panama’s western Veraguas province held a protest on June 7 to demand the cancellation of permits given for the construction of the Lalin 1, Lalin 2 and Lalin 3 hydroelectric projects on the Gatú river. The protesters charged that there were irregularities in the environmental impact studies for the dams. They also said that they hadn’t been consulted on the projects and that the companies involved were ignoring an order from San Francisco’s mayor to suspend construction. The communities proposed the promotion of cooperatives, ecological tourism and farming based on ecological principles as alternatives to what they consider the government’s bad development policies. The demonstration ended without incident, although the protesters complained about the presence of investigative and anti-riot police. Veraguas’ governor agreed to start negotiations with the campesinos. (Radio Temblor (Panama) 6/7/13)

Meanwhile, the indigenous Ngöbe Buglé are continuing to protest the Barro Blanco hydroelectric project in their territory in the western province of Chiriquí [see Update #1170]. According to Ricardo Miranda, a spokesperson for the Apr. 10 Movement, various communities in the area carried out actions on May 24 to demand the project’s cancellation. Miranda called on traditional Ngöbe-Buglé leader (cacica) Silvia Carrera to give up on the negotiations being held with the government at the United Nations (UN) office in Panama City. Even though an independent study mandated by a UN report last year still hasn’t been completed, Generadora del Istmo, S.A. (GENISA), the Honduran-owned company building the dam, says the project is now 40% complete. The company indicated that it was reforesting the area around the dam to compensate for clearing done in the construction. (Radio Nacional de Venezuela 5/27/13, some from Prensa Latina)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin America, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico

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Peruvian left bids farewell to Javier Diez Canseco

Peru: life term for neo-senderista

Peru: protest vigil against Trans-Pacific trade pact

Peru: new confrontation at Conga mine site

The Peace Process in Colombia and U.S. Foreign Policy: Plan Colombia II

Venezuela-U.S. Relations May Improve, Following Meeting of Foreign Ministers

Gang truce extends to Honduras

Civilian Policing "Reform" Consolidates Power (Honduras)

In Guatemala, a long road to justice

Guatemala: criminalization of peasant protests

Report Dubs Mexico “A Graveyard for Migrants”

Mexico Celebrates “Carnival of Corn” and Rejects Monsanto

Feggo: Political Neighbors (Video, Mexico)

Maya pyramid bulldozed in Belize

New Report Shows that Migrant Deaths Remain High in Arizona (US/immigration)

For more Latin America news stories from mainstream and alternative sources:

For immigration updates and events:


Your support is appreciated. Back issues and source materials are available on request. Feel free to reproduce these updates, or reprint or re-post any information from them, but please credit us as “Weekly News Update on the Americas” and include a link.

Order The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers, from Monthly Review Press, by Update editors Jane Guskin and David Wilson:
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Small Businesses Urged to Look to Latin America – 

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Small Businesses Urged to Look to Latin America
Latin American and Caribbean trade conferences held in Miami often concentrate on the big players — the multinationals — and global economic trends. But Trade Americas Expo, which began Thursday, is shifting the focus to small- and medium-sized 

US unabled to control its national borders.

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1 Comment, last updated on Sunday Jun 23 by Jorge

Latest Food Stamps Story About Puerto Rico Riddled with Ignorance and Racism 

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I knew almost immediately that when a story from began with this headline, “U.S. Food Stamps In Puerto Rico Costing You 2 Billion Dollars,” readers weren’t going to get much actual real information about Puerto Rico and its relationship with the United States.
That was pretty much confirmed when the piece’s author, Tara Dodrill, last night included the following photo of “Puerto Rico” (FYI, that’s the Philippines and there is a rail in the street, which doesn’t exist at all in Puerto Rico) as the featured image of the story:
That photo of “Not Puerto Rico” was replaced later with this photo, one that is widely used:
So now we know the initial intentions of the piece, which confirms that Dodrill was just going to write drivel about Puerto Rico and create the myth that Puerto Ricans are a bunch of foreign Third World moochers. Yet in the interest of taking a moment to respond to yet another example of how some Americans have no idea about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, I will share a few more thoughts about Dodrill’s sham of an article.
Let’s start:
Do Puerto Ricans living on the island get $2 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) money from the federal government? Yes. But did you know the federal government spent $80 billion on SNAP last year? Dodrill only gives you one tree instead of the forest to prove her point that Puerto Ricans are taking away “American money.” So Puerto Ricans living on the island, who by the way ARE American citizens (something Dodrill’s story tends to brush aside until the very end), account for 2.5% of the entire 2012 SNAP budget. 2.5%. And those American citizens living on the island can’t even vote for President or have representation in Congress. Dodrill’s story could have easily have read, “U.S. Food Stamps in California Are Costing You 5.6 Billion Dollars,” or ”U.S. Food Stamps in Texas Are Costing You 5.5 Billion Dollars,” or ”U.S. Food Stamps in New York Are Costing You 4.9 Billion Dollars.” Instead Dodrill makes this illogical assumption that Puerto Ricans are not “American” and have no right to the same programs that are offered other U.S. citizens.
Do Puerto Ricans living on the island pay federal taxes? Yes. Let’s stop that myth right now. It’s just not true. Here is what the IRS has to say:
In general, United States citizens and resident aliens who are bona fide residents of Puerto Rico during the entire tax year, which for most individuals is January 1 to December 31, are only required to file a U.S. federal income tax return if they have income from sources outside of Puerto Rico or if they are employees of the U.S. government. Bona fide residents of Puerto Rico generally do not report income received from sources within Puerto Rico on their U.S. income tax return. However, they should report all income received from sources outside Puerto Rico on their U.S. income tax return. Residents of Puerto Rico who are employed by the government of the United States or who are members of the armed forces of the United States also should report all income received for their services to the government of the United States on their U.S. income tax return.
Special rules apply to civilian spouses of active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces who work in Puerto Rico but retain their tax residency status in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia under the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act. If these spouses’ Puerto Rican income is only from wages, salaries, tips, or self-employment, they will only file a U.S. income tax return. For more information on how MSRRA applies to civilian spouses, refer to Publication 570 and Notice 2012-41.
United States citizens or resident aliens who are not bona fide residents of Puerto Rico during the entire tax year are required to report all income from whatever source derived on their U.S. income tax return. However, a U.S. citizen who changes residence from Puerto Rico to the United States and who was a bona fide resident of Puerto Rico at least two years before changing residence can exclude from U.S. taxable income the Puerto Rican source income received while residing in Puerto Rico during the taxable year of such change of residence.
If you are a bona fide resident of Puerto Rico and qualify to exclude your Puerto Rican source income on your U.S. tax return, you must determine your adjusted filing requirement based on the filing thresholds shown in the tax return instructions. For more information about how to determine the amount of income that requires filing a U.S. income tax return, refer to Publication 570 and Publication 1321 (PDF).
If you have no U.S. filing requirement but have income that is effectively connected with a trade or business in Puerto Rico, you must fileForm 1040-SS (PDF) or Form 1040-PR (PDF) with the United States to report your self-employment income and, if necessary, pay self-employment tax. For more information on self-employment reporting requirements, see the Form 1040-SS Instructions and Form 1040-PR Instructions.
Also, since we are still talking about federal taxes, the IRS also says this: “Employers in Puerto Rico are subject to the taxes imposed by the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) (Social Security and Medicare taxes) and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA). An employer is a person or organization for whom a worker performs services as an employee. As an employer you are required to withhold, report, and pay employment taxes on wages paid.”
Wait a minute, Puerto Ricans serve in the U.S. military? They’re not foreigners? Yes. In fact, Dodrill should be praising those who do serve and protect her right to write ignorant articles that suggest that Puerto Ricans are just a bunch of foreign Spanish-speaking poor people who live on the other side of the tracks and are just taking advantage of the system. Maybe Dodrill should read this piece from 2004: “Soldiers Can Die But Can’t Vote; Puerto Ricans Serve Without Representation,” which pretty much sums it up perfectly.
Is Puerto Rico a welfare state dump? Seriously? I have to address this one? Ok, I will. Yes, the island has problems, both in crime and unemployment, but I believe that this has to do more with the political status issue that has dragged on for decades and the island’s mediocre politicians who have placed status over the real issues surrounding Puerto Rico. I do agree with what Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi told the United Nations this week that the island’s current territorial (yes, colonial) status is the “root cause” of its problems, but I am equally disappointed that Puerto Rico’s current and past leaders aren’t working together to solve the status issue. Instead, they just keep bickering and blaming each other. It also does not help when the island’s own governor Alejandro García Padillaclaims that if Puerto Rico were to become a state of the Union, it would turn into a “Latin American ghetto.” Comments like that play right into Dodrill’s thesis, which is also implied in posts by the likes of Alex Jones’ InfoWars. So García Padilla just gave Alex Jones even more fodder to justify InfoWars’ views on Puerto Rico as being a backward welfare state instead of promoting what is good about the island and what Puerto Rico offers. Thanks a lot, governor.
Let’s be real for a minute: the current political system in Puerto Rico is broken. The status quo no longer works. Right now, those who believe in Puerto Rico’s future and potential must be attentive to the misinformation that is being shared online through so-called “alternative journalism” sites. Dodrill’s “story” clearly suggested that “foreigners” are taking away “YOUR hard-earned tax dollars,” when in fact, that is just not true. However, this type of content will continued to get shared and it is the biggest reason why I tell my pro-statehood friends that a very small yet influential group of Americans will do anything to discredit their statehood efforts and say that the United States should not take on a “Latino welfare state” full of Spanish-speaking people.
It is critical that Puerto Ricans of ALL political stripes start becoming Pro-Puerto Rico first and foremost. Take off your status badges now. We MUST be ever so vigilant of how the rest of the world views us, and when we see problems that ignorantly portray us, we must act together and feverishly defend ourselves. This is not about political status —let’s leave that debate for later— this is about working together to change how the rest of the United States views Puerto Rico and the 8 million of us who form part of the American fabric. And that perspective is one that is bilingual, bicultural, sometimes American, sometimes Puerto Rican. It is what makes us so unique. It can be our greatest strength, but also our greatest weakness. Yet it is purely Puerto Rican, and that is what we need to share, now more than ever.
Does the island have serious economic and social problems? Yes, and those problems will be tackled if the island’s bitter political struggles disappear, when we start promoting new industries on the island and move away from what is and what will always be a colonial system.
But does Puerto Rico also have millions of proud boricuas who can and will speak out againstimbéciles like Dodrill and Jones? Of course we do.
Let’s defend Puerto Rico at all times. Let’s make sure that the our authentic narrative is being shared online more and more so that our house is united and in order. Then we can worry about how the inside of our house will look like eventually.
Who’s in?
I am, and I will always support any fellow portorro who puts Puerto Rico first.
Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77 on Twitter) founded (part of Latino Rebels, LLC) in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog,, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  UnivisionForbesand The New York Times.
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Puerto Rico's current status "root cause" of problems, says pro-statehood leader 

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Reblogged from NBC Latino: Puerto Rico's current commonwealth status is "the root cause of the economic and social problems that impair quality of life on the island," said Puerto Rico pro-statehood leader Pedro Pierluisi to members of the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization, arguing that Puerto Ricans have expressed a preference for statehood over its current […]

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Defense Appropriations Act Includes Pierluisi Language Requiring Department of Defense to Report on Current and Future Efforts to Combat Drug-Related Violence in Puerto Rico

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Washington, DC—Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi announced that the House Appropriations Committee has approved the Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2014, and the bill includes specific language proposed by the Resident Commissioner, which expresses concern about the high level of drug-related violence in Puerto Rico and which requires the Department of Defense (DOD) to provide a report within 90 days on the steps DOD is taking, and the steps it intends to take going forward, to make it more difficult for drug trafficking organizations to transport drugs to and through Puerto Rico.The language states as follows:“The Committee remains concerned over the high level of violent crime in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Committee notes that the homicide rate in each territory is significantly higher than any other U.S. jurisdiction and that many of these homicides are linked to the cross-border trade of illegal narcotics. The Committee further notes that data collected by federal law enforcement agencies appear to confirm that the U.S. territories in the Caribbean have become an increasingly attractive trans-shipment route for drug traffickers seeking to supply the U.S. mainland. The Committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a report not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act to the congressional defense committees on detection, monitoring, and other counterdrug activities the Department is undertaking, or intends to undertake, to support law enforcement operations in and around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”“I want to thank the Appropriations Committee for including the language I requested, which requires DOD to ensure that it is taking the necessary steps to protect the U.S. jurisdiction of Puerto Rico from the scourge of drugs and related violence,” said Pierluisi.“I have made a commitment to the 3.7 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico that I will do everything within my power to enable them to live in security and peace. I am pleased that my efforts are producing results, and I will not rest until the crisis of violence in Puerto Rico is alleviated,” added the Resident Commissioner.Relatedly, Pierluisi met earlier this week with senior officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to receive a briefing on the status of the agency’s “surge” to Puerto Rico, which the Resident Commissioner announced in February after his longstanding efforts to urge federal law enforcement agencies to increase resources on the Island finally bore fruit. Pierluisi was informed that additional federal law enforcement agents have already been deployed to Puerto Rico, and that many more will be deployed to the Island this summer, with the specific goal of reducing drug-related violence. The Resident Commissioner was also told that, as he has requested, DHS is closely collaborating with the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the United States Postal Inspection Service to improve and enhance joint efforts to reduce the flow of drugs and guns to Puerto Rico. The DHS officials provided Pierluisi with a great deal of information about the new federal efforts, most of which the Resident Commissioner will not publicly reveal in order to maximize the effectiveness of those efforts.“I am very pleased with what I heard from DHS. The senior officials informed me that Secretary Janet Napolitano, who visited Puerto Rico in the summer of 2012, has great interest in this subject, and regularly seeks updates about the status of efforts to reduce drug trafficking and violence in Puerto Rico. I am particularly pleased by the inter-agency cooperation that DHS officials briefed me on. This effort requires cooperation—both among federal law agencies and between federal agencies and local agencies. Rest assured that I will continue my efforts until the public safety crisis in Puerto Rico is brought under control.”
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29% of Islanders have Already Obtained Statehood for Themselves 

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More than 29% of the people born in Puerto Rico still alive had left the territory for the States as of two years ago, according to U.S. Census data.
The 1.5 million residents of the States who formerly lived in the islands did not include the 3.4 million people of Puerto Rican origin born in the States.
As Puerto Rico has continued to decline economically and socially in its territory status, often misleadingly called “commonwealth”, millions of Puerto Ricans have ‘voted with their feet’ for the equality of opportunities and benefits of statehood by moving to a State.
As of 2011, there were an estimated 4,916,000 people of Puerto Rican origin in the States.
The migration has been so great in recent years that the islands’ population has declined for the first time in recorded history.  In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau counted 3,808,610 people in Puerto Rico.  A year ago, it estimated the population at 3,667,084 – a net decrease of 141,526.
It also, however, estimated the population two years ago at 58,705 less than at the time of the 2010 census.  This means that the pace of migration from the territory to the States has substantially increased in more recent years.
The 2010-12 personal seeking of statehood averaged more than 80 Puerto Ricans every day.
Although ‘commonwealther’ opponents of statehood and right-wing allies they have enlisted in the States have tried unsuccessfully to make Puerto Ricans’ use of Spanish a disqualification for statehood, the Census data found that 82% of Puerto Ricans in the States were fluent in English.
Puerto Rico is the second-largest place of origin of Hispanics in the States.  Mexico is the largest.
In 2011, there were an estimated 1,070,000 people of Puerto Rican origin in New York and 850,000 in Florida.
The number of people of Puerto Rican origin in New York has been about the same since at least 1990 — but the number in Florida has ballooned from 247,000 in 1990 and 482,000 in 2000.

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