The U.S. Attorney’s Office brought 130 prosecutions for official corruption in 2011, more than any one of the country’s 92 other judicial districts, according to a report from the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section.
Going back to 2002, Puerto Rico has seen 396 public corruption cases, second only to New Jersey, with 429.
“It is our obligation to prosecute corrupt conduct that reduces public trust (in government),” the U.S. attorney for Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodriguez Velez, said in a statement.
“When that trust is broken, it is the responsibility of the Department of Justice to bring those who corrupt the system before the courts,” she said.
The Public Integrity Section is legally required to report to Congress every year on the Justice Department’s efforts against official corruption.
Entrenched corruption is a major problem in Puerto Rico, according to the FBI field office in San Juan, which two years ago arrested more than 100 Puerto Rican law enforcement officers and other public servants on charges of colluding with drug traffickers.
Legislators from the island’s two main political parties have also been caught up in corruption scandals.
Puerto Rico came under Washington’s sway in 1898 and island residents were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917, yet they cannot vote in presidential elections, though Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States can.
Since 1952, the island has been a self-governing, unincorporated territory of the United States with broad internal autonomy, but without the right to conduct its own foreign policy.
Though residents of Puerto Rico are not subject to federal income tax, the island receives substantial sums from Washington.