FOX: SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Just a half hour from the charming cobblestone streets of Old San Juan loom the boxy World War II-era public housing projects, now home to thousands of residents trapped in a post-Hurricane Maria dystopian nightmare of crime and corruption.
Police appear powerless to stem a spiraling murder rate, donations rarely seem to reach the public and the government’s answer is most often to blame Washington. Families that a year ago enjoyed the trappings of upper middle class huddle indoors with scant food and sporadic power, while armed young men roam the streets enforcing a brutal code borne of social breakdown.
“We are scared, of course, but this is where we live – this is our home now,” said 72-year-old Sebastian Mercado, who moved with his wife Ana to the suburb of Trujillo Alto when their home was destroyed and they were unable to flee the island.
Mercado, a former mathematics tutor, says most of his friends have migrated to the mainland – Florida and New York – to be with family. Now, he spends his days longing for the not-so-distant time when he played dominoes with friends, danced and enjoyed Sunday night dinners of Arroz con gandules – Puerto Rican rice with pigeon peas and pork.
Fear dominates his nights.
“The boys walk around with big guns. The drugs. Too much violence,” he said, shaking his head.
The damage from Maria has led to job losses, foreclosures and an increase in murders, robberies and carjackings. The increasingly vicious nature of attacks adds to the climate of fear.
On Feb. 4, police officers arrested Adriel Carrasquillo-Carmona after he stole a 70-year-old man’s gray 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Carrasquillo-Carmona bashed the septuagenarian in the head and body with a sledgehammer multiple times before reaching inside the man’s bloodied pockets to take his cell phone and $800. more here