San Juan – The number of violent deaths registered since Jan. 1 in Puerto Rico has hit 1,100, making 2011 the bloodiest year in the island's history.
One of the latest victims in the crime wave linked to the surge in drug trafficking was 4-year-old Jomar Rivera Rodriguez, who died from a gunshot wound to the head in an incident where his stepfather, Kenneth Rivera Fontanez, 21 - who was also killed - was apparently the target.
The boy and his stepfather, who was identified by the media as a drug dealer in the San Juan neighborhood of Rio Piedras, were playing in a park then they were shot.
In addition, over the weekend, a couple were shot to death while they were together with their three children, who were unharmed, driving in an automobile on one of the capital's main streets.
The vehicle was machine-gunned, something that is becoming a more frequent occurrence in the metropolitan area.
A war of sorts is raging on the streets of the U.S. commonwealth as drug gangs vie for control of drug sales points. Experts say that in recent years the island has become a key cocaine shipment route from South America to the U.S. mainland.
This month, the newspaper El Nuevo Dia published a report in which it warned that Puerto Rico is showing some of the characteristics of what U.N. agencies call "narco-states," although that contention has been denied by the government.
An economist consulted by the daily estimated that the illegal drug business on the island totals $9 billion per year, or around 20 percent of the island's economic output.