San Juan – Puerto Rican police and several federal agencies on Wednesday launched a massive sweep against drug traffickers in the tough San Juan neighborhood of La Perla.
Agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives teamed up with local cops to execute 114 arrest warrants, Puerto Rico police superintendent Jose Figueroa Sancha said.
He said the aim of the arrests was to defuse Puerto Rico's biggest illegal drug market.
"It's one of the largest operations that's been done against the flow of cocaine and heroin from La Perla to different points on the island," Figueroa Sancha said.
He explained that the sweep is the culmination of an investigation lasting almost 18 months and that police will remain in the neighborhood for a while "so that the drug (distribution) points do not reemerge," adding that authorities searched dozens of homes where clandestine drug labs allegedly were operating.
The sweep resulted in the surprising arrest of community leader Jorge Gomez Gonzalez, a public figure regularly interviewed on radio and television programs.
"I don't have anything to do with anything about drugs," the handcuffed Gomez Gonzalez said after being taken into custody.
The operation came after a bloody weekend during which 25 people were killed.
Puerto Rican officials blame an ongoing turf war among drug dealers for most of the average of 10 homicides reported every weekend.
Authorities have boosted the number of police on the street and even deployed the National Guard, but none of the additional security measures has done anything to diminish the violence.