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Editorial & Column


Puerto Rico Mourns; The Mercado Fiasco


October 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rico mourns

We don’t need to play either side of the political game of recriminations over the validity of police statistics. Crime’s up and people feel less secure. Both are facts. It’s a human tragedy, and it’s also bad for business.

Rather than wallowing in the tragedy of it all, we’ve strived in our front page to bring our readers a set of possible short-term solutions to the crime wave we’ve been enduring lately.

These are not our ideas, but solutions from those on the front lines, the top officers in law enforcement and the criminal justice system, both federal and local, all people of great experience.

Perhaps, as could be expected, there’s a disconnect between local and federal officials when it comes to recognizing the nature and extent of the problem, with local officials downplaying the crisis and federal officials taking a more somber—and may we say more realistic—view of the current state of affairs.

The island’s top cop, Police Superintendent Victor Rivera, went so far as to say that "the reality is that Puerto Rico is turning into a less violent society."

Yeah, right. Tell that to the parents of Nicole Muñiz, the 16-year-old victim of a stray bullet who inspired thousands to take to the streets Sunday to demand more effective action in fighting crime NOW. Tell it to the many others who joined them because they too have lost loved ones. Tell it to the thousands who also marched because they’re scared they or their loved ones will be next.

If local officials won’t admit there’s a problem, how can they possibly find solutions?

To his credit, Rivera recently implemented a short-term strategy that seems to be yielding results. Starting next week, though, it appears the plan will be downscaled to "increase its cost-effectiveness." Rivera said that the plan’s $1 million-a-month cost is too high to pay on a regular basis.

We wholeheartedly disagree. An extra $12 million a year to reduce crime sounds to us like a great investment. Come on, lots more than that is wasted every month by our huge, fat government.

Perhaps he was being overly diplomatic in not wanting to point fingers or get into politically troubled waters, but what of the relative passivity of the local solicitor general, who seems to feel that as long as he has an experienced and well-trained corps of prosecutors and the citizenry’s cooperation, everything will be fine.

In our view, the federal officials interviewed seemed to have a more realistic assessment of the local crime situation and a better set of suggestions on what to do about the crime problem in the short term.

Their recommendations ought to be taken very seriously by local administration officials as well as by the local Legislature.

The Mercado fiasco

Life goes on. And we truly hope that’ll mean life without Ferdinand Mercado sitting on the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.

At the end of a tiresome comedy of errors, Gov. Calderon was finally forced to withdraw Mercado’s nomination, not because she heeded the almost unanimous cry of voices across the island, but because she lacked the votes in the Senate. Many of the governor’s early supporters are wondering what happened to the woman they elected on a platform of respect for consensus and majority opinion.

Still insisting on Mercado’s fitness for the job, Calderon has refused to submit any other name for consideration by the Senate.

The whole fiasco has been an insult to the associate justices on the Supreme Court. By nominating Mercado to preside over the island’s highest court, and now by not naming anyone else, the governor is basically saying that those now on the court, despite their many years of service and experience, are not good enough for the top post.

In withdrawing Mercado’s name, the governor left the door open for nominating him again, perhaps after the November primaries, which supposedly made it so politically difficult for six PDP senators to go along with her nominee. We hope she won’t commit an act of such defiance to our constitutional order and to public opinion.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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