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Puerto Ricans seize on social media to fight crime

Puerto Ricans are fighting crime back with tweets and Facebook posts in the midst of one of the most violent ever years for the commonwealth.

By Jeannie Rivera Dec 6, 2012 10:17AM

Fed up with the wave of violent crime that shakes our island like a rattle, Puerto Ricans this week took their plea for peace and justice to social media outlets. Th initiative, which happened organically, quickly caught on and expanded among the 4 million Puerto Ricans outside of the island. So far the results have been remarkable although it would be naïve to think that social media alone can transform the island’s security crisis.

 

Puerto Rico has been grappling with extreme violence for at least two decades now.  The last couple of years have been particularly gruesome. In 2011 there were 1,136 murders committed in a territory that is barely 100-miles long and is populated by 3.8 million people. That represents a 15 percent jump over 2010 and it is the highest number ever since record keeping began in the 1940s.

 

The straw that broke the camel’s back this week was the murder of José Enrique Gómez, a 32-year-old publicist who was carjacked, robbed and burned alive as he pleaded for his life. His murder came in the heels of the killings of boxer Héctor “Macho” Camacho and a childhood friend days prior.

 

That’s when hundreds of thousands, sick of waiting for justice that never seems to materialize (most murders in the island go unsolved) pursued their own strategies. Puerto Ricans in and outside of the island disseminated the photo of one of Gómez’s suspected murderer through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, among other outlets. They encouraged each other not to be afraid and to offer up any information on the crime. In just a matter of days, one of the presumed murderers was arrested. His own mother turned him in after seeing his picture on Facebook. He sang like a canary and three others were arrested soon after.

 

While this was unfolding, thousands of Puerto Ricans were uploading their pictures all over social media holding a sign that reads: “Todos somos José Enrique (we all are José Enrique).” Celebrities like singer/actor Ricky Martin, TV host Johnny Losada and salsa singer Manny Manuel and many of my Orlando, Miami and New York friends are among the participants. With it, they hope to attract national and international attention to the people of the American commonwealth, living in an environment comparable to that of a war zone. Yet, you don’t hear much about the bloodshed in Puerto Rican streets. The call for attention is already yielding results, with several national outlets focusing on the problem in a way rarely seen.

 

The campaign has grown to include a Facebook-led boycott against Puerto Rico’s most viewed TV show, Super Exclusivo, in WAPA TV. Days after Gomez’s murder, the host, a grotesque puppet voiced by puppeteer Kobbo Santarrosa, suggested that Gomez brought his tragic end upon himself by cruising in an area frequented by prostitutes and drug addicts. The comments caused massive indignation and led to a call for companies advertising in the show to withdraw their support. So far, many have done just that, including insurance giant Triple-S and Dish Network.

 

It is true that Facebook and Tweeter alone aren’t going to cure a malady that has been allowed to fester for decades. But what social media is providing to almost 8 million Puerto Ricans in the island and here is an opportunity that goes beyond venting frustration. They are tools of empowerment. With them, Puerto Ricans are changing what the institutions haven't, turning fear into bravery and indifference into empathy. They are challenging the status quo. Journalist Wilda Rodriguez said it best today from her Facebook page: “This is an act of empowerment at a time that our people, more than ever, need to know that they can [make a difference.]”

 

 

5Comments
Dec 10, 2012 10:50AM
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This is great. I think the social media is very strong and can help us to bring lots of issues to the limelight.

We need to bring jobs and develop business to the Island. This is the best social program there is. I just hope that the politicians take advantage of the Commonwealth status and start working towards the next infrastructure  to be able to compete, but most important  to hold accountable our own elected officials.  We also need to get a more transparency on how our own elected officials are spending the money that comes to the Island. We already have the highways and the ports, the airports, the education system, the labor force and the no how of finances. We need to start holding our elected officials accountable. This is our biggest Problem.  

 

·         We need to develop a Silicon Valley to Compete in the Global Market. i.e. Lots of IT jobs related are outsource to India. We have experience on the manufacturing system i.e. sewing factories (that are no longer with us) and know with the pharmaceutical. We do not need to wait for the Pharmaceutical to leave and start working on the next infrastructure. The future is now.

·         We have to develop the most efficient shipping industry so we can compete in the Global Market. To bring   goods and to deliver goods to all Central and Latin America.

·         We have the capacity the man power and the education to do all of these  and more. We can become the hub for distribution, warehouse for all sorts of items. We need to create an infrastructure for a Silicon Island. We can compete with Silicone Valley.

·         We also need to start building stronger bonds with our FAMILIA (All Puerto Ricans) outside of the island. To create the kind of relationship that will transcend geographical barriers.

·         We need a 3, 5, 10, 15 year PLAN. That will answer all of our needs.  

·         Let us create our own Bonds. Let us get the most responsible people not political appointments that only benefit the few and sell us out.

 

To be continue…. Federico Colon (Todos somos Jose Enrique)

Dec 11, 2012 3:18AM
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it's about time, that damn puppet really sucks.  Can't stand her/him.  I don't think the puppeteer is even Puerto Rican.  Stupid gossip, and commentaries, that my wife will catch as she surfs the channels.  Lets have shows with real news,  worthy of respect (to)  the public.

While we are at it, lets mention to P.R.s' to leave their bad driving habits on the island, when they come to the mainland.

 

The laud music disturbs the quietness of the neighborhoods, makes P.R.'s look cheap, and disrespectful.  Including gas stations !!  They leaver the cars running while gasing up. Blast the music, so they can continue  to hear it INSIDE of the store while paying for the gas.  Unheard-of stupidity. 

Dec 12, 2012 11:42AM
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Mi Gente'.Unidos podemos hacer todo. Los felicito en su union para salvar nuestra isla.
Dec 11, 2012 7:54AM
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Florida Sr. it's all races that do that. But I agree with you.
Dec 11, 2012 3:16AM
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it's about time, that damn puppet really sucks.  Can't stand her/him.  I don't think the puppeteer is even Puerto Rican.  Stupid gossip, and commentaries, that my wife will catch as she surfs the channels.  Lets have shows with real news,  worthy of respect (to)  the public.

While we are at it, lets mention to P.R.s' to leave their bad driving habits on the island, when they come to the mainland.

 

The laud music disturbs the quietness of the neighborhoods, makes P.R.'s look cheap, and disrespectful.  Including gas stations !!  They leaver the cars running while gasing up. Blast the music, so they can continue ue to hear it INSIDE of the store while paying the gas.  Unheard-of stupidity. 

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About the author
  • Jeannie RiveraJeannie Rivera

    Jeannie Rivera is an independent writer and former newspaper reporter who lives in Central Florida with her family, a guitar, a few orchids and a bunch of books. She doesn't have pets and this is unlikely to change. She's penned stories for The Miami Herald, The Orlando Sentinel, BBC Mundo, AOL and others. She was raised in Puerto Rico where she learned to sing, cook good food, be a good mom and throw boisterous parties (she gets great story material from these.) She enjoys traveling, good wine, great books, her two boys and sleeping.