Masked And Armed Private Security Firms Roam Puerto Rico
While Puerto Ricans struggle with a lack of hospitals, electrical power, food and water, there are masked and armed private security firms roaming the towns of the battered island.
The Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) notes that these armed men do not wear identifying badges and refuse to state who they actually work for, but they do wear military uniforms.
The CPI asked the armed men why they covered their faces, got these response:
Because if I go with my daughter to eat at Burger King tomorrow and somebody identifies me, they could kill me.
Because we want to.
Hector Pesquera, secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety, told the CPI that the armed masked men “could be military.”
Rosa Emilia Rodríguez, head of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Puerto Rico, explained to CPI how the armed men can carry machine guns and other weapons in public:
We go by federal law violations and they include long weapons, carrying an automatic rifle and so on, if they do not have the proper license.
It depends [on] whether they are military. That is, it is very restricted. I’m surprised that this is happening. I don’t know if they are off-duty police officers, I don’t know, I would have to see the circumstances. A police officer can work in a private security company in their spare time.
I don’t know, it has roused my interest, so I’ll check it out. But I’m surprised that they only have access to long weapons.
The Puerto Rico Weapons Act states “you can not…own, use, transfer or import a Semi-Automatic Assault Weapon,” but this rule does not include “people whose license contains the category of target shooting, hunting or who possess an armory license, or for those assault weapons legally existing in the United States.”
Additionally, the law doesn’t govern people “with a gunsmith license, or law enforcement agents who use arms in the call of duty, or the government of Puerto Rico or the United States, or for the use of by armed forces of the Government of the United States or Puerto Rico.”
The security firm Academi, which used to be the notorious private security company Blackwater, said they have offers from the local and federal government, and the Red Cross, to come to Puerto Rico.
Paul Donahue, Chief Operating Officer of Constellis, Academi’s parent company, told CPI, “We’re ready to go.”