Living in terror: Vieques and Puerto Rico

After my much maligned article on whether or not Vieques Island was safe for tourists and a follow up showing an armed robbery of tourists; local media reports and personal stories strongly reinforced my position, things are terrible in Puerto Rico and on the island of Vieques and something must be done to fix it.  The criticism I received was from people trying hard to keep the problems quiet and not put Vieques or Puerto Rico in a bad light.

This is nothing new.  I’ve often been cautioned by friends and relatives to ‘go easy’ on Puerto Rico. Others have been more directly threatened for trying to do the right thing (like trying to save stray dogs)  and I myself received a death threat or two while working for the U.S. Navy during the Vieques protests.  But I digress…

Local daily newspaper Metro PR ran a headline and article: North American Community lives in terror on Vieques.  The article quotes the Mayor using those words to describe how Americans living on the island have been living in fear due to the extraordinary crime wave that has hit Vieques in the last few years.  (NOTE: American born residents are referred to as ‘Americanos’ or ‘Norte Americanos’ as if they were from a different country.  All Puerto Ricans are Americans by birth.)

The numbers are clear.  Vieques had 16 murders in 2013 and two in a week in August 2014 although the total number is down for the year.  Armed robbery of locals and tourists along with petty theft continue despite an increased police presence and the arrest of the two men caught on video robbing a group of tourists while they ate dinner.

Vieques in many ways is a microcosm of the total problem of Puerto Rico.

This week 16 Puerto Rico police officers pled guilty to corruption charges for running a criminal organization from within the department.  Were this an isolated incident, it would not be worth mentioning.  However, it wasn’t long ago that nearly one hundred officers were caught by the FBI in a sting for offering to protect drug shipments.  With this in mind, the increase of police presence in Vieques isn’t that comforting.

If you clicked on the links in the last paragraph you will have noticed something.  Both major arrests and many others of government officials are being conducted by the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies, not the local government.  The local governments record on prosecuting corruption charges is abysmal, regardless of which party is in power.

This last month also marked the tragic anniversary of the kidnapping, rape and murder of a pregnant tourist near Ceiba Puerto Rico. The man was caught, but he did not receive the death penalty because Puerto Rico doesn’t have one, but desperately needs one.

Across Puerto Rico residents live in terror.  A female family friend recounted of two times in the last two years that she has had to divert from her commute home from work to the nearest police station because she was being followed by a vehicle with completely tinted windows.  You might laugh at the thought, but many Puerto Rican women have been taught that if followed by a car like that or any other vehicle, divert from your route; and head straight to the nearest police station.  The pursuers will usually turn away and go look for another victim.

How many Puerto Rican women have been raped and threatened into not reporting it under these circumstances?  I wish some of them would speak up and share their stories.  It has gotten so bad that even smoking outside of a restaurant (because smoking is banned in any public space with a ‘roof’ (seriously), is dangerous because you can be mugged, shot, kidnapped or otherwise harmed in the few minutes it takes to puff a cigarette, especially if you are woman.

Its not just the bad economy that are driving native born Puerto Ricans off the island.  Crime and corruption are also a major factor.  Puerto Rico’s murder rate is five times the national average.  While other violent crimes appears high but not to exceed the national average, personal experience and personal stories from others tell a very different story.  While some may argue that Puerto Rico’s crime rate is no different than the urban centers of Detroit, Chicago, New York or LA, I respectfully submit that people don’t spend their hard earned money to visit the ghetto.  They do spend that money to visit Puerto Rico, to invest in Puerto Rico and sometimes to live their because of the allure of its natural beauty.

Puerto Rico needs radical fundamental change at all levels.  From Vieques Island, to San Juan the status quo is no longer acceptable.

***NOTE: Please, consider buying one of my books which will help this blog reach more people.  Toy Farm Lemonade, The Beagle and the Dolphin and A Puerto Rican Manifesto and my latest piece ‘Life lessons from driving lessons‘ are all available today at Amazon Kindle.

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About worleyf

Semi-retired Media Relations guy, former radio and TV reporter and legislative aide. Middle of the road Libertarian (as if that actually existed) who reviews current news items and stories, and offers an alternative point of view.
This entry was posted in Cops, Crime, Family, Politics, Puerto Rico, Terror, Travel, Vieques and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Living in terror: Vieques and Puerto Rico

  1. Pingback: More bloodshed on Vieques Island | Conservative News and Views on Puerto Rico

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m Puerto Rican and I have been in vieques and what you say is bullshit, you should go there before speaking it off. The mainland oa only filled with corruption on the bad zone, and most crimes mentioned are in San Juan (which gets the most attention out of any place) but vieques feels like a different place than Puerto Rico nor I have seen any crimes. I don’t know what Puerto Rican media you watch, but they never mention Puerto Rico is safe, they mostly talk about the mainland (and San Juan) and pretty much reports on most crimes. But Vieques is safe, safer than the main island at least. But I can tell you that most of the things that you claim about and what the US media claims is exaggerated, Vieques is safer than Chicago and a lot of US cities, and if you compare the US as a whole, there are crazier people out there. Since when have there been school shootings in Puerto Rico? A long time ago (if there have been) when have you heard about a mother killing her child? Happens, but if I had a dollar on every time the US media report on a mother killing her child, I would be rich. And since when has another white teacher slept with a kid? Haven’t heard of a case, but again, there’s a lot of similar stories in the us. And since when have I heard of a father killing his entire family and then suiciding? Haven’t heard of that either. There’s a lot of crimes here, but the US have crazier people. Don’t rely on statistic, as long as you stay away from drugs, the chances of getting robbed/killed are slim. Trust me, I live in a neighborhood where security doesn’t even exist in a way and yet there hasn’t been a break in. I feel more secure living here than living in the US. You should stay here for a bit more before relying on statistic too.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m Puerto Rican and I have been in vieques and what you say is bullshit, you should go there before speaking it off. The mainland oa only filled with corruption on the bad zone, and most crimes mentioned are in San Juan (which gets the most attention out of any place) but vieques feels like a different place than Puerto Rico nor I have seen any crimes. I don’t know what Puerto Rican media you watch, but they never mention Puerto Rico is safe, they mostly talk about the mainland (and San Juan) and pretty much reports on most crimes. But Vieques is safe, safer than the main island at least. But I can tell you that most of the things that you claim about and what the US media claims is exaggerated, Vieques is safer than Chicago and a lot of US cities, and if you compare the US as a whole, there are crazier people out there. Since when have there been school shootings in Puerto Rico? A long time ago (if there have been) when have you heard about a mother killing her child? Happens, but if I had a dollar on every time the US media report on a mother killing her child, I would be rich. And since when has another white teacher slept with a kid? Haven’t heard of a case, but again, there’s a lot of similar stories in the us. And since when have I heard of a father killing his entire family and then suiciding? Haven’t heard of that either. There’s a lot of crimes here, but the US have crazier people. Don’t rely on statistic, as long as you stay away from drugs, the chances of getting robbed/killed are slim. Trust me, I live in a neighborhood where security doesn’t even exist in a way and yet there hasn’t been a break in. I feel more secure living here than living in the US. You should stay here for a bit more before relying on statistic too. Status quo should change, but if by that you mean statehood, then no thanks, I’m not interested in my island become the second Hawaii with a lost culture and language. I would even choose independence before statehood anytime if the status quo wasn’t available.

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  4. arawak3 says:

    First of all before commenting on Puerto Rico about crime, drugs, poor education. Take a good hard look on the main land. It pretty much sounds the same, If not worse. I live in Colorado and I’ve been searching for a vacation home here in the US (mainland) and came up with nothing desirable. Take a look at any city data in any state and find, high crime, drugs, murder, rape, theft, gangs etc, etc.

    Many gringos come to the island and act as if there shit don’t stink. complain you feel as an outsider. Puerto Ricans are warm people. Have the courtesy to learn the language and customs/ culture of the county you intend to visit/live in. Gringos like to tell others to speak English you are in America but don’t like it dished back to them. Also like to celebrate cinco de mayo but hate Mexicans. I am not saying that there is no crime or corruption in PR, but you have that on the mainland as well.

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    • worleyf says:

      I have an issue with this constant (not just you) comparison of Vieques to an inner city. You and others who have criticized me probably don’t even realize you are doing it. Consider this, People do not spend thousands of hard earned dollars to go to an inner city or crime infested neighborhood. They just don’t. They DO spend thousands of dollars to go to Vieques. Instead of attacking me (as many have) why not fix the problem? This isn’t about the Navy anymore, its not about ‘Gringos’ its about you and the people of Vieques and the rest of Puerto Rico putting up a wall of pride to cover the terrible and sad state of affairs that exist on the islands. Put the effort into cleaning the island, getting rid of the crime and making it safe and welcoming to people. But if you instead respond with ‘gringos’ which is a racial slur; how can you say that you are welcoming and inviting? Think about it. Nothing I’ve written has not been independently confirmed. Nothing. Stop pointing fingers at me and look in the mirror.

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  5. Wendy Wasserstein says:

    I had two homes in Vieques. I sold the last one in 2012 due to the constant crime. both homes were vandalized numerous times, the island has become incredibly hostile to gringos. The corruption is off the charts. Gringo homeowners are totally shaken down to pay the bills and property taxes while the locals seem to be on siesta constantly and complain about the gringos who actually make an economy there. After the Navy left, things went downhill quickly and escalated to the point where crime is rampant, guests are robbed on every beach, there are murders, home invasion style break ins, you name it. I would never ever go back. Very sad. It was beautiful paradise when the Navy was there and things were under control, Puerto Rico is corrupt. Drugs like cocaine traffickers flood the island as a gateway to the US as no passport is needed. It’s ridiculous. They created this hostile environment, I have no regrets but after 10 years of trying to be a good homeowner, produce jobs, the workers never did what they were supposed to, even helped loot my home while I was away!, Incredible. I would go to Hawaii. It’s welcoming, no tension, no b.s. and very little crime. They brought all this on themselves, but constantly complain about their own situation, but won’t do anything about it. Just like inner city slums in the USA. They are the problem, but yet want everyone else to blame. It’s insanity there. And the litter!!! Litter everywhere, you clean the beach yourself, the locals come back in two days and just dump their garbage and beer bottles all over the place on a beautiful beach. It’s really SAD.

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    • worleyf says:

      Thank you for your comments! I was sharply criticized for this series of articles on Vieques. But time and time again I get comments and emails from people who confirm everything I’ve reported.

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    • David says:

      I have to say that Wendy is absolutely right! My parents were from Vieques, and I lived in Vieques from over 25 years. In those day, although the economy was really terrible, with a few hundred jobs provided by the US Navy, the General Electric Switch & Gear production facility, and the garment factories supported by the US Navy, people got by and crime was almost non-existent. I have to say that since the departure of the US Navy, crime has become rampant, particularly violent crime.

      I was, until recently, part of the Viequense blog styled: Cultura Viequense, the site is owned and operated by a good friend of mine. My friend, who’s name I withhold for reasons of privacy, is an exceptional individual; one who works diligently for the preservation and elevation of his culture, national patrimony, and human/moral values. That said, I recently had to quit his blog for the following reasons: I simply cannot stand people who are constantly speaking of religion; relying on their religion to change a society that is absolutely corrupted; not willing to take responsibility for the fact that their society is but a reflection of their true values; not recognizing that their religion is but a crutch that they’ve been using for centuries, continuously seeking a positive change while doing nothing to effectuate it, all while repeating the same behavior over and over again ad nauseam! The definition of insanity is patent in the behavior of the people of Puerto Rico and Vieques, as they continue to live life in the same way they always have, awaiting for “positive changes” to happen while using the same “solutions” yet expecting a different result!

      I personally would not return there, or even risk my family in visiting that island, for all the money on earth. There seems to be a complete disconnect from reality on that island. You hear people talking about The “government” building a “super bridge” connecting the main island of Puerto Rico, with the Island of Vieques. They have constant meetings about this, and they all seem to believe it too… If you tell them that such a 12 mile project would cost in the hundreds of millions, and that the ROI for any investor is simply non-existent, they catalog you as unpatriotic! Yet, the things that they can obtain, such as cleaning their neighborhoods of thugs, and keeping their communities liter free and clean, that is just an after thought, as going to church every night to pray for change comes first!

      Yes, we had planned to open up a business or invest in hotels in Vieques, but after the W experience, that is not even an after thought anymore. We also had an experience of a friend of our that went to Vieques to invest in business, and he was also robbed and set up by the same people he was attempting to assist in building a sustainable economic growth for … shameful! I personally placed an announcement in a Vieques blog, a blog that has over 3000 local readers. We were seeking local fishermen cooperatives, local fish retailers, and/or independent fishermen, to provide local catch for the US gourmet seafood markets; that was 6 months ago, we never had not one reply! Grant you, we were willing to pay 125% above their local POS, plus overnight shipping costs, still … nothing but silence!!!!!! We have simply decided to stay away! Believe me, the world is full of beautiful beaches, with great people that love visitors, particularly if the visitors place interest in their cultures, and offer an opportunity for economic growth and sustainability. I am sorry for my mom and dad who’s remains are still in Vieques, but I will not recommend any member of my family Nor friends to visit a place where you are simply not wanted nor appreciated, and run the real risk of being but another statistic to violent crime! BTW, if you are a victim to crime, do not bother calling the police, as it may be that the one who stabbed you is related to the same cop your reporting the crime to!

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  6. Robert G says:

    I’m confused, I visited Vieques 3 times, on all occasions, I intentionally sought the local favorites for food, Bringing me into less fortunate neighborhoods. I’m from Boston, Irish, pale, blue eyes, attitude and outgoing. I’m not a fool, if I went into Dorchester for soul food, or china town for Asian cuisine, I wouldn’t be wearing bling, I wouldn’t stumble through alley’s drunk, I wouldn’t flash money around there with an arrogance like most white tourists, it’s not your island, it’s not your back yard, respect what they DONT have, what hardships they endure, after all, your asking or wanting something from THEM!!!. Why on Gods great green earth would you flaunt what you have on an island that is nearly destitute in most native neighborhoods? Did you think if you vacationed in a place that is similar to third world countries, why would you think the local populous are eager to help you? They want what you have, they are poor, don’t be a dumbass, travel light, keep valuable out of sight, bring what you need, your not going to run into a ‘great find” warranting carrying a $1000.00. If you were such a douche to whip out a fat wad of cash in such a place, I’d punch you in the face just out of principle. Your not in Kansas anymore gringo, act accordingly. The island is dangerous, like any other place you vacation in! Hawaii is over run by meth heads, thieves and criminals, USVI natives HATE the whites from upper states, if you go to Mexico, are you renting a new Benz at the airport??? I’m planning on moving to PR to start a business in construction. Here is the best advise I’ve gotten in that arena, STICK TO YOUR OWN. If you think your a philanthropist, and are going to save them from their selves, you got what you deserved, you arrogant ass. Everywhere I went, everyone I encountered, all were polite, if not, simply dismissive, because my nose wasn’t so long to look down. DONT FORGET THIS FACT, the economy is driving the natives out of their own “country” only successful “Americanos” can afford to retire there, Because I’m damn sure not moving into the “hood”, I’ll have a gun, or ten, and a badass dog to let me know when things are good or going sideways. STICK TO YOUR OWN…..

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    • worleyf says:

      I appreciate your comment, but I don’t think arrogance can be considered a legitimate cause of crime. I’ve been destitute poor and upper middle class. At no time, did I think it was OK to rob someone at gun point or otherwise. People of all races and classes (yes, even the poor) can be assholes sometimes. Race and wealth do not cause bad personalities. But a bad personality gives me or you or them; NO right to rape, murder, assault or rob.

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  7. Pingback: Puerto Rico travel alert: assault on a golf course | Conservative News and Views on Puerto Rico

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