San Juan – San Juan, Puerto Rico’s mayor says his streets are safe. And he’ll sleep on them to prove it.
Jorge Santini, the mayor of Puerto Rico's capital, said he and his family will spend several nights on a bus parked in different neighborhoods. He also plans to cook a typical rice-and-beans dish for residents of those communities as part of his re-election campaign.
Santini said he wants to prove that crime has not taken over San Juan, though many of the island's 1,117 homicides last year occurred in the metropolitan area.
Santini spokesman Ramon Alejandro Pabón did not respond to requests for more details.
Puerto Rico had a record number of homicides last year and the island has been struggling with rising crime for several years, largely as a result of the island's role as a transshipment point for South American drugs bound for the U.S. mainland. Though random violence is relatively rare, polls in the territory consistently show crime as the leading concern and an anti-crime march planned for Aug. 12 is expected to draw tens of thousands of people.
On Monday, the governor of the U.S. island territory, Luis Fortuño, signed an update to the penal code that will boost sentences for murder, assault and other crimes.
The new penal code establishes fixed sentences on a range of offenses that are substantially higher than those that have been in place since the last time the laws were updated in 2004 and, in some cases, more in line with the 1974 version, Fortuño said.
"These penalties are both fixed and more severe and that's what we are looking for," the governor, surrounded by half a dozen people who lost family members to violent crime or were themselves victims. "We want to bring peace of mind back to the good and decent people of Puerto Rico."
Santini, the mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital, is known for occasional quirky acts. He recently sent out a holiday postcard that featured his family along with a taxidermied leopard sinking its teeth into an antelope.
Santini said his wife and three children also will participate in the sleepover.
Santini has been mayor since January 2001 and faces a challenge from local Rep. Carmen Yulin Cruz in the November elections.