It is a case of damages over retaliation in the workplace, the facts of which include FBI investigations, Russian spies and an alleged hostile work environment by the Acting U.S. Attorney in Puerto Rico, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.
Jacqueline Capó walks through Calle del Cristo, paved with blue cobblestones like the other main streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico — a city that looks like it came off a Paul Signac painting. The ocean breeze sweeps through narrow passages between colonial pastel buildings with chipped paint, tall wooden shutters and rustic balconies, and ruffles Capó’s emerald blouse. She stops in front of the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, as the buzzing of power generators starts filling the midday air. “We’ve already gotten used to that; this is our new reality,” says Capó, a 55-year-old singer and a daughter of the Frank Sinatra of Puerto Rico, the late Bobby Capó, and Irma Nydia Vázquez. Seven months after Hurricane Maria, the island still has not recovered.
Yolanda Montañez’s home resembles that of a construction site. The floor is bare, with dirt and small holes. There are no walls separating the two bedrooms on the second floor, and all of her belongings are huddled up in plastic bags. But she’s happy because for the first time in almost eight months she can look up and not see the sky through a blue, plastic tarp but instead a new, brown roof. For decades, the people of el Caño Martín Peña, a neighborhood in San Juan, have dealt with some of the highest levels of poverty, flooding, and gentrification in the country.
More than seven months after Hurricane Maria, organizations serving domestic violence and sexual assault victims in Puerto Rico report an increase in violence against women since the storm. Yet a breakdown in island infrastructure and unreliable statistics from official sources makes it difficult to quantify the problem and respond to the emergency needs of victims in the US territory. Sexual violence and intimate partner violence tends to rise in the aftermath of natural disasters due to the high levels of stress, the scarcity of basic necessities, and the breakdown of social networks, according to the World Health Organization. Puerto Rico has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, which has increased over the last few years. Leaders of organizations serving victims on the island say the two hurricanes last fall likely exacerbated the rate of violence against women in Puerto Rico.
porby Stella Levantesi | Special for Center for Investigative Journalism |
As of April 29, in the first four months of 2018, 227 murders had occurred in Puerto Rico, 14 more than in the same period last year. But those who are supposed to fight crime are leaving the police. In just five years, Puerto Rico has lost almost a quarter of its police force. Of 17,000 officers, more than 4,000 have left their jobs. Many officers who have remained in their posts are not happy because of low wages and poor benefits, several said in separate interviews.
Last Tuesday, 13 men and three women met in a room at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR, for its initials in Spanish.) They were waiting for the Auction Board’s orientation regarding its Request for Proposals for the relocation of 3,200 Puerto Rico prisoners to U.S. private jails. An experiment that was done before and failed. Seated on the first row was Brian Ferrell, VP of Proposals Development for CoreCivic, one of the leading administrators of private prisons in the United States. Next to him was Attorney Lizzie Portela-Fernández, of McConnell Valdés, a legal firm that lobbies in favor of CoreCivic in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives. Also, in the first row, but on the opposite side, were Dan Joslin and Mike Murphy, executives of Management Training Corporation.