Though the number of homicides won’t match last year’s record total of 1,122, violent crime remains the most pressing issue as Puerto Rico prepares to bid farewell to 2012.
With four days left in the year, reported murders stand at 967, though the revelation in May that some police commanders were under investigation for ordering subordinates not to include certain offenses in crime statistics has cast doubt on the reliability of official figures.
Puerto Ricans were horrified this week by the death of a 2-year-old boy in a shooting on Christmas Eve.
Jonattan Yamil Albarran was killed along with his stepfather, Ursulino Ayala, thought to have been the actual target of the attack.
Media accounts described Ayala as a suspect in several homicides and suggested he was slain to prevent him from making good on a threat to avenge the recent murder of his brother.
Police, meanwhile, said the crime was almost certainly related to the drug trade.
Another youngster, 11-year-old Christian Nieves, was fatally shot earlier this month in San Juan by four assailants out to kill his uncle, who had a record of drug arrests.
The killings of Jonattan and Christian brought to 34 the number of minors who died violently in Puerto Rico this year.
The enactment in July of a new penal code that classifies any death resulting from a drive-by shooting as first-degree murder seems to have had little impact on the level of violence.
Puerto Rico’s incoming governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, speaks of an epidemic of violence, while U.N. researchers found the island suffers 30 homicides per every 100,000 residents.
Authorities blame some of the mayhem on drug traffickers’ increasing use of Puerto Rico as a transit point for shipments to the continental United States.