Cocaine Bust in Puerto Rico Points to Island’s New Role in Drug Trafficking

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Top Story — Puerto Rican authorities on Tuesday announced the seizure of 500 kilograms of cocaine worth approximately $11.5 million, one of the largest drug busts this year. The seizure follows a series of significant drug hauls in the U.S. island territory, pointing to the region’s growing role in the importation of drugs into the United States.

Eight people were arrested during the raid, according to Police Superintendent José Caldero, who added that three cars and almost $1,500 in cash were also confiscated. The raid was the result of an anonymous tip.

Cocaine seizures in Puerto Rico and neighboring islands in the Caribbean have almost quadrupled in the last three years. According to a New York Times report, traffickers are increasingly using the area as a drug route, foregoing Mexico as the country experiences crackdowns and violent disputes between rival cartels.

Puerto Rico is also desirable for traffickers because goods can move from the territory to the continental U.S. without being subject to cusoms inspection. In many cases, InSight Crime notes, narcotics are first moved to other Caribbean countries, especially the Dominican Republic, before being brought to the island.

Traffickers likely also target Puerto Rico due to growing demand on the island itself, which has contributed to the rise of violent local gangs who specialize in “micro-trafficking.”

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Mexico’s government said that on Thursday it will unveil several new measures aimed at improving policing and the justice system, in response to pressure from protesters demanding reform after the disappearance of 43 teaching students in the town of Iguala.
  • Human rights groups in Mexico accused the police of using unnecessary force and arbitrary detentions in their attempts to quell mass protests on Thursday over the students’ disappearances, particularly in regard to 11 protesters who were charged with attempted murder and inciting riots.
  • President Obama’s executive order on immigration reform has inadvertently created opportunities for scam artists seeking to take advantage of vulnerable individuals with immigration services, reported the LA Times, a danger President Obama has warned those seeking deportation relief to watch for.

Caribbean

  • The Spanish government has asked Cuba to allow dissidents who were imprisoned after a 2003 crackdown known as the “black spring” to leave the island, the latest Spanish intervention on the dissenters’ behalf.
  • The FBI on Tuesday raided Puerto Rico’s Aqueduct and Sewer Authority on suspicion of financial wrongdoing at the agency.

Central America

  • Suspected gang members shot and killed eight people early Tuesday morning at a middle school graduation party in the town of Acajutla, El Salvador, an incident the country’s police chief called “the most significant” so far this year.
  • El Salvador’s former President Francisco Flores, who is facing embezzlement and illicit enrichment charges, was placed under house arrest by a judge on Monday because Flores’s medical condition reportedly cannot be treated in jail, a decision that was immediately appealed on the grounds that Flores is considered a flight risk.
  • Central American civil society groups are urging their governments to prioritize environmental concerns that could affect agriculture and food security in the region at the COP20 climate summit in Lima, Peru in December.

Andes

  • FARC rebels in Colombia freed two captive soldiers on Tuesday, as promised, and said they will release Gen. Rubén Darío Alzate, the highest-ranking FARC captive in 50 years, by this weekend.
  • Despite a recent crackdown on illegal gold mining, the industry continues to flourish in Peru as new smuggling routes appear on the country’s border with Bolivia.
  • In response to a wave of criticism in Colombia over the fact that legendary author Gabriel García Márquez’s archive will be housed at the University of Texas, the country’s National Library has confirmed that several of the author’s most famous belongings will remain in his native country.

Southern Cone

  • U.S. authorities have subpoenaed documents from Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras, as part of its own investigation into corruption at the firm, which is traded on the U.S. stock exchange as well as in Brazil.
  • Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner made her first public appearance at an annual meeting of Argentina’s construction chamber Tuesday after being hospitalized with a gastrointestinal infection on Nov. 2.
  • The construction of gated communities on the wetland outskirts of Buenos Aires has reportedly disrupted delicate ecosystems and contributed to flooding.
  • In an effort to protect the Amazon, Brazil extended a moratorium on buying soy grown on illegally cleared rainforest land.

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