An estimated $9 billion in drug trafficking activities may be contributing to 20 percent of Puerto Rico’s Gross Domestic Product.
The staggering figure becomes apparent when compared with cocaine-related profits from cocaine trafficking in North America and Europe, which amounted to about $18 billion in U.S. dollars in 2009— equivalent to 0.6 percent of the total GDP of South America, Central America and the Caribbean, according to the United Nations 2011 World Drug Report.
If the estimate by an economist from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez is accurate, the drug trade impacts Puerto Rico’s economy 40 times more than cocaine trade profits affect all of Latin America.
The sheer impact of drug trade moneys in Puerto Rico is bound to impact not only the finances of the island, but its politics too. The links between drug trafficking and politics date back to the mid-1980s, according the news agency EFE. A decade later Zaida Hernandez, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, addressed links of four of its members with drug trafficking, reports El Nuevo Día.
As much as $17 billion of all commercial transactions in Puerto Rico are made with cash, making it a haven for money laundering said Arturo Carrión, vice president of the Puerto Rico Bankers Association.
The sheer amount of money involved in drug trafficking makes it impossible to ignore at government levels, yet authorities are quick to save face, “to characterize Puerto Rico as a ‘narco-state,’ drugs would have to have penetrated to the highest government offices, which is not the case,” said Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s representative to the U.S. Congress, reported EFE.