Aggressive tourists lead to more police, fines


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — As a bartender at La Factoría, a preferred bar in Puerto Rico, Celso Meléndez Vázquez has had a entrance row seat to the rise of misbehaving vacationers within the island’s capital. 

Meléndez Vázquez works and lives within the well-liked vacationer space of Previous San Juan, and he was nervous about all of the violent incidents occurring with vacationers across the space who refused to stick to native face masks necessities. 

“I’d generally go to work considering, ‘Is that this the day I’ll have some aggressive interplay with somebody?’ ” 

When he clocked out of labor, he would encounter a sea of individuals within the streets not carrying masks.

The current executive order in Puerto Rico, enacted on Feb. 8, states masks have to be worn always, together with outside. The island’s curfew additionally runs from midnight to five a.m., and companies are allowed to remain open till 11 p.m.

Nevertheless, over the previous few weeks, Meléndez Vázquez says the scenario has gotten higher as a result of a heightened police presence. 

Low-cost flights, chilly climate within the U.S. and tedium as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns have enticed many travelers from the U.S. to visit the island territory throughout its peak season for journey, which runs from mid-December to mid-March.

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In 2021, Puerto Rico has had greater than 11,911 incoming flights, in response to the airline communications agency Juliett Alpha. Roughly 82% of those flights are coming from the U.S. 

Puerto Ricans have expressed considerations over journey to the island and vacationers contributing to the unfold of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The island has additionally skilled a number of episodes by which vacationers turned violent after being requested to put on a masks.

In February, vacationers reportedly assaulted a lady in a wheelchair after they have been instructed to put on masks. A video posted to social media confirmed the ladies, who have been reportedly staying at an Airbnb in San Juan, throwing their drinks on the lady’s face and telling her to talk English. 

In mid-March, another video showed a violent altercation between guests at the Sheraton hotel in San Juan, which ended with safety guards stopping the combat and the lodge eradicating the friends from their premises. 

San Juan’s municipal police squad started executing a plan March 15 to mitigate aggressive conduct in vacationer zones. The plan added extra cops in well-liked vacationer areas corresponding to Condado, Santurce and Previous San Juan. 

“We have assigned a whole lot of police, particularly within the space of Condado as a result of excessive variety of incidents,” Orlando Rivera Lebrón, San Juan’s police chief, instructed USA TODAY. “Ever since we began this plan, we’ve made a number of arrests and have intervened with a whole lot of disorderly conduct.”

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Based on Rivera Lebrón, municipal cops have arrested 27 individuals in these vacationer areas for drug possession and violent conduct for the reason that plan has taken place. The plan consists of having police implement the 11 p.m. enterprise closure rule, in accordance with the present government order.

The police’s safety plan coincides with a Puerto Rico Tourism Firm’s marketing campaign selling masks utilization and reminding vacationers of the curfew in place from midnight to five a.m. 

The marketing campaign is promoted in well-liked vacationer areas via billboards, which additionally remind vacationers of the fines for not following the manager order. Individuals who fail to adjust to the masks mandate can face a $100 wonderful.

With spring break vacationers, lodge occupancy is nearly at capability. Joaquín Bolívar, the president of Puerto Rico’s Resort and Tourism Affiliation, mentioned he expects all of the rooms to promote out for the week of spring break.

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi on Monday detailed a bigger safety plan for spring break. Over 3,500 will probably be stationed in vacationer areas in the course of the week, and the Nationwide Guard may have roughly 1,100 lively troopers stationed within the island to implement the manager order. 

Pierluisi mentioned the federal government would allocate the required sources to “stop agglomerations and fight non-compliance with government orders.”

Vacationers coming to Puerto Rico should present a adverse COVID-19 take a look at end result taken not more than 72 hours previous to visiting. Guests who fail to point out a adverse take a look at end result should quarantine for 14 days. 

In Puerto Rico, the tourism business accounts for 80,000 jobs and about 6.5% of the island’s total economy

“On the Tourism Firm we’re dedicated to the constant improvement and strengthening of Puerto Rico as a vacationer vacation spot of excellence, along with maximizing the worldwide projection that distinguishes it as a really perfect vacation spot the place legislation and order prevail,” Carlos Mercado Santiago, president of the Puerto Rico Tourism Firm, mentioned in a press release on March 14.

Puerto Rico has applied a number of government orders aimed toward diminishing the unfold of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, together with some that prohibit visits to the seashore. Seashores are open for leisure use.

The island has greater than 107,105 confirmed instances of COVID-19 and greater than 2,113 deaths as of March 31, in response to Johns Hopkins University data. The island is reporting a mean of 170 instances per day, in response to the weekly pattern. 

Comply with Coral Murphy on Twitter @CoralMerfi

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