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Posts Tagged ‘Puerto Rico Police Department’


“It’s raining money and drugs here in Puerto Rico.” For all those who think that the issues of border security, drug crimes and tragic murders are only affecting the US-Mexican border just need to watch this report from CBS NEWS.

As the report says: “Drug smuggling is as much a part of Puerto Rico as palm trees and sand – American sand. For drug traffickers that means once they get to Puerto Rico, no more customs checkpoints on the way to the mainland.”


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Last week, the United States Department of Justice released a scathing report accusing the Puerto Rican police —the nation’s second largest police force— of serious abuse and civil rights violations. Now, the island’s federal woes continue, as The Wall Street Journal reported today about serious fraud charges and Social Security disability claims. As the article states:

[SSDI]© United Press International Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll

The inspector general, Patrick O’Carroll, told an audience at an Aug. 30 disability-examiners conference that the investigation was tied to a pharmaceutical plant that recently closed in Puerto Rico, with 300 employees losing their jobs.

Shortly after the layoff, 290 of the 300 former employees applied for Social Security disability benefits and they all used the same doctor, who lived far from the plant, Mr. O’Carroll told the audience. Mr. O’Carroll didn’t identify the doctor, whose identity couldn’t be learned.

Jonathan Lasher, an assistant inspector general at the agency, wouldn’t comment on the case, but said, “The office of the inspector general is continuing to pursue any number of fraud allegations in Puerto Rico related to the Social Security disability program.”

The investigation comes as part of a stepped-up presence in the U.S. commonwealth by the inspector general’s office following a March article in The Wall Street Journal that showed how much easier it is to win Social Security disability benefits on the Caribbean island compared with any of the 50 U.S. states.

In 2010, the Social Security Administration awarded benefits in 63.4% of its initial decisions in Puerto Rico, compared with much lower rates elsewhere. In Arizona, for example, benefits were awarded in initial applications in 35.6% of the cases. Nine of the 10 top U.S. zip codes for workers collecting Social Security disability benefits are in Puerto Rico, according to government data.

A spokesman for the Social Security Administration said in light of “statistical trends” in Puerto Rico it has asked the inspector general’s office to “make sure that these trends do not reflect an increase in fraud.”

The article continues:

Even though SSDI is a federal program funded by payroll taxes, initial decisions about whether someone qualifies are made by state officials because of the way the program is designed. Officials in the Puerto Rican government promised full cooperation with the probe.

“We strongly support the effort to investigate this case and any incident of abuse, and will partner with federal officials to eliminate fraud in not only the disability program, but in other federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid,” Lorenzo Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s secretary of health, said in a written statement. “As with any other federal investigation involving fraud with a federal program, if a physician is found to be performing unlawfully, we will move swiftly at the local level through the state licensing board to take whatever action is needed to halt the abuse.”

Mr. Gonzalez said these incidents “are not unique to Puerto Rico” and show the need for “standardized, clear cut guidelines” in determining how benefits are awarded.

Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate was 15.5% in July, higher than the 9.1% national average.

For those who have lived and worked on the island for decades, Puerto Rico has had an anecdotal history of abusing federal handouts and claims. The recent actions by the federal government confirm that the island’s economic relationship with the United States is being challenged and questioned, in light of the economic problems the federal government is facing.

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The former governor of Puerto Rico, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, wrote an essay last month in Spanish called “La fiebre no está en la sábana,” which literally means “The Fever is Not on the Bed Sheet,” a saying that speaks to the superficiality of the island’s dysfunctional political problems. For Puerto Rico to truly be a better political society, we must dig deeper, go beyond the “bed sheet,” and truly reform a political system that has been egocentric, self-serving, and quite frankly, has kept the island passive for decades. We have published a loose English translation of Vilá’s essay, which calls for electoral reform that actually follows the process of the world’s top democracies.

It’s no secret that over the last thirty years the discontent and dissatisfaction [Puerto Ricans] have with the Legislature has resulted into a lengthy and gradual crescendo of complaints and “reform” legislated to have resolved nothing.

Our reasons for these reforms are numerous: because legislators do not work hard enough and had no time to legislate their projects, because we need to create the second ordinary session of the Legislature and also adopted the principle of full-time legislator. Because they spend too much so we gave them a “stipend” (as if it were not the same) and had them pay taxes on that income. Because they legislated late at night, we a strict schedule and so they are not seen as being too close with the candidate for Governor, we created the third ballot.

Because there are way too many legislators and because they spend too much, we the people of Puerto Rico voted for the one-chamber system, but then the PNP [pro-statehood party] ignored the people’s mandate and now there are way too many legislators, who spend too much and annoy the people. I would venture to say that if a solution to have the people vote for no chamber or no legislators, it would be pass.

And last but not least, the scandal and the resignation of Sen. Roberto Arango of the PNP have added to this debate.

All these proposals, as legislated and proposed now, are all symptoms, but not the root of the problem. Our biggest problem is the intellectual quality, diligence, and ethics of our legislators. Nothing proposed will address that issues, which is the real problem. The proposal is being discussed now so that we have a Legislature with fewer legislators, what it means is that instead of having Chuchin and Arango in the same chamber, we will have either Arango or Chuchin. That’s not real change.

I’ve seen this problem from different perspectives and experiences: as a consultant at La Fortaleza when it approved the second session, as a legislator when legislators approved the full-time law, as the Resident Commissioner —where I could see the differences with the federal Congress— and as a governor having to govern with a PNP-controlled legislature. The experience gained and the failed attempts of legislative reforms aimed at a deeper diagnosis of the problem: the poor quality of our legislators is the result of a deficiency in our democracy.

It is true that we as a people vote for these legislators, but the other truth is that every four years in Puerto Rico almost nobody knows who their legislators and candidates for the House and Senate are. We live in a highly “executive” system, which is what truly influences move the elections for our Governor and Mayors. These are the ones who work to have the people know and think about them when they vote. But let’s be honest, people are not thinking about their legislative candidates when they go to the polls. That is the root of our problem and legislators who are elected are the symptom.The problem is a deficiency in our political and democratic framework.

I have always believed that the remedy for the deficiencies must be more a democratic democracy. And in the case of our Legislature, after so many scandals and mediocrity of so many failed attempts at reform, it’s time to make real changes that are deep and dramatic. We have the power as a people to truly examine who the candidates are for our Legislature.

Therefore I propose to open a discussion about we can amend our Constitution effectively, so that legislators are chosen in a separate election from those of Governors and Mayors, just like in other countries and how it is done most of the time in the United States. (We should also discuss how many legislators we want.) We can keep the legislators’ terms to last four years, but the elections would occur every two years between the elections of Governors and Mayors. Thus, in this election the only thing on the ballot would be candidates for the Legislature and the people can focus on the performance of their legislators and the other candidates that could  replace them. What I propose is a direct relationship is between the legislature and their constituents. Let’s get to the root of the problem. The fever is not on the bed sheet.

Aníbal Acevedo Vilá

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