Puerto Rican Violence Affects Houston as Population Continues to Swell

Categories: Cover Story

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Puerto Rico has seen a murder rate comparable to Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Don Teo has lived in Houston since 1959. He still maintains a slight Puerto Rican accent, but his life -- now in retirement, five years after selling the Tex-Chick restaurant he founded 33 years ago -- is here in Texas.

But even Teo, much like the employees still working at Tex-Chick, cannot escape the violence still rampaging Puerto Rico, which is the subject of this week's cover story. The island sees one of the highest murder rates in the world. With nearly 150 murders in the first two months of 2013, it appears that this year will see as much bloodshed, as much violence, as the Isle of Enchantment has recently experienced. And Teo knows this as well as those who've just arrived, as those who've recently turned Texas into the third-most popular destination for educated puertorriqueños fleeing the island.

One month ago, Teo received a phone call from his family. Their house, the one with barred windows to protect the belongings inside, was targeted by ladrones -- the thieves and robbers that have become a cog in the island's burgeoning drug trade. Everyone was fine, but the parts the thieves could reach, less so.

Solar panels were lifted. Wiring running outside the house was stripped. The car remained, but the carburetor was somehow missing. These ladrones made off with enough to resell -- to presumably find some money to help expedite the flow of marijuana and heroin along the island's myriad passageways, greasing the paths that funnel nearly 80 percent of the eastern seaboard's cocaine stock.

Again, no one was injured. But that makes Teo's family one of the fortunate few to escape with only material damage. They didn't suffer through the random, haphazard, and increasing violence besetting a nation. They didn't experience the worst of the gangs and pistol-whippings that have seen New York's and Florida's and Texas's ranks of puertorriqueños swell over the past few years. They weren't tried and convicted by a questionable police force that has played a role in flipping Puerto Rico from a destination spot to a point of departure.

There has to be a breaking point, soon. Because with nearly 40 percent more individuals of Puerto Rican descent living Stateside rather than on the island -- and with the recent referendum demanding a shift to statehood -- there's only so much longer those on the island can suffer through this territory-wide post-traumatic stress disorder. While the federal government attempts to clamp the Mexican tide of drug-running, a new, third border continues to pry open. The War on Drugs has stuck its finger in one dyke, only to ignore the gush coming from within its own borders.

And as more puertorriqueños come to Houston, it's only a matter of time before that violence begins to trail behind. It's happened in New York. It's happened in Florida. It's natural that the gangs running Puerto Rico into the ground will look to expand their network, and to find their contacts elsewhere.

US Representative Michael McCaul, while claiming a bit speciously that such networks could allow infiltration from Hezbollah and like-minded terrorist organizations, seems one of the few politicians concerned with the porous borders leaking drugs from Puerto Rico northward. After all, the votes of the 3.6 million islanders are all but meaningless in Washington. That, however, could change -- the US Congress has never denied a petition for statehood.

But until that decision comes, it only seems like it will get worse. Sequestration will cut federal aid; politicians seem like they'll continue ignoring the problem. And while Teo was fortunate to see only his carburetor and solar panels lifted, others -- and more -- will not be as fortunate.

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I was surprised to see this article as the cover story for this week in the Houston Press. It completely changes my perspective toward the newspaper. I guess you can try to fake you are a brave and rebel news source that goes against the grain to expose the truth in the news world, but at the end, you play the tune the money providers composed for you. To use a phrase you would probably use yourself in your paper in an attempt to create a smoke screen to make us believe you are the Robin Hood of the news in Houston, "That just makes you their bitch." Did you even read the article? It is not a well written article. There are half truths and blatant lies with no valid documentation to support its claims. I am not denying the struggles with drug trafficking in the Island. I am not denying the high incidence of criminal activity. But saying that this is a recent problem, something new, implying that "the Puerto Rico you knew in the past is no more and what we have now is this hell hole lined with beer cans and gun shells decorating the streets and populated by a majority of drug lords and their lackeys", no, the personal agenda behind this claim is so obvious it stinks. "Stop the Puerto Ricans from coming to the U.S.; they will ruin our pristine utopia." The emotional appeals used are so blatant, I will probably use them as examples of "this is what you should not do" in my classes. No disrespect to the cook at the over priced Tex Chick Puerto Rican restaurant in Montrose, but there were a few other Puerto Ricans you could have interviewed as well. Maybe some of the prominent doctors, engineers, college professors, and corporate executives that live in this City and were born and raised in the Island. Your article is irresponsible, biased, reeks of bigotry and racism, and a shame. What? Are there too many Mexicans lining your pockets that you have to pick on some other Latino group? Does the prospect of Puerto Rico being a state scare Jane, Susie, and Tom (Frisky ans Spot) so much that you have been pressured to publish this? Surely, you can't be that much of a baseball fan that this is your payback for eliminating the U.S. team. If you want to talk shit about Puerto Rico and the horrible influence we will be to the U.S., at least be responsible enough to pay a little more and have an article well written, not this mediocre propaganda you plastered all over the city. I personally will react to your stupidity by never again using your newspaper to advertise, never again reading your newspaper, and making sure I have enough copies of your shameful edition for this week to hand out to every Puerto Rican I find in Houston. The funny thing is, we aren't that many. So I guess what happened was that the authors of the article were having lunch at Tex Chick and said, "Oh, the mofongo is wonderful today!" And then the waiter informed them, "Ah, that's because we have a new cook that just moved to Houston from the Island." And at that point their mofongo got stuck in their throat and all they could think was, "The Ricans are coming, the Ricans are coming!" They wrote this piece of mierda and you were the only pendejo newspaper stupid enough to publish it. You want to write about Puerto Rico, why don't you write about the thousands of Puerto Ricans that have died serving this country? Why don't you write about the reason why every time there's a war, Puerto Ricans in the infantry are sent first as "carne de cañón", cannon meat, for those who even care to know. My father died in his 80's always proud to have been a veteran who fought in World War II. My son's father never served in the U.S. military. In his late thirties he signed up for the Army Reserve with sights of going back to school. (He fell for the famous military recruiting bait.) Guess where he was sent a few months later, just a couple of weeks after September 11th? Before any major military movement was sent to the Iraq area by continental U.S. bases, Puerto Ricans were already there, no matter what training or experience they had or not. Anyway, enough time spent on this. You are an embarrassment to new media coverage. Por mí, se pueden ir to's p'al carajo con el periodico de mierda este. Never again.


Prohibition has diverted police resources away from other law enforcement activities with the result that violent crime and crime against property is driven far higher than it would have been otherwise. To the extent that communities divert law enforcement resources from violent crimes to illegal drug offenses the risk of punishment for engaging in violent crime is reduced.

The National Firearms Act of 1934 was actually a direct response to the acute rise in prohibition (1919-33) engendered gun violence.


The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada reviewed 15 studies that evaluated the association between violence and drug law enforcement. "Our findings suggest that increasing drug law enforcement is unlikely to reduce drug market violence. Instead, the existing evidence base suggests that gun violence and high homicide rates may be an inevitable consequence of drug prohibition and that disrupting drug markets can paradoxically increase violence."

During alcohol prohibition all profits went to enrich criminals and corrupt politicians. Young men, while battling over turf, died every day on inner-city streets. A vast fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have gone on education. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally the economy collapsed! Sound familiar?

Prohibitionists and their gun-control criminal friends who live in a crack-house called Congress are having a ball. And it's all on our tab.

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