House to probe hike in women going missing; official condemns politicization of gender violence

By The Star Staff

In response to what appears to be a disproportionate pattern of women going missing over the past nine months, including one from Humacao, the Public Safety Committee of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives will in the coming days begin an in-depth and detailed investigation into the problem.

Committee Chairman Félix Lassalle Toro, along with the Rep. Maricarmen Mas Rodríguez of District 19 (Mayagüez and San Germán), announced the investigation and its objective.

“The goal of this investigation is to identify exactly the number of people who have been designated as missing in Puerto Rico this year, as well as in the past five years, and particularly women, in order to focus all available resources, not only those of the Police Bureau, but also of the municipal police and federal law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI),” Mas Rodríguez said in a statement. “The House has been very active in the search for real and viable solutions during this four-year term and we will continue to do so; that is why we are going to investigate this situation in depth and detail.”

“The designation of ‘missing person’ is something that is very difficult for the family and friends of that person. They need and deserve an answer about what happened to their loved ones,” noted Lassalle Toro, who represents District 16, which includes the municipalities of Isabela, San Sebastián and Las Marías. “Over the past few weeks, we have carefully observed an increase in the number of missing persons cases in Puerto Rico. We are not going to limit ourselves to learning the protocols used by the Department of Public Safety (DSP) to handle these types of cases. We know about the professionalism and dedication of our police officers. What we are looking for is to see how we can help, with legislation and/or by identifying alternatives that are viable and, above all, can be quickly implemented to help in the search for these citizens.”

The proposed investigation comes after media reports over the past few months about the increasing number of women going missing. According to the police, some 20 women have gone missing in Puerto Rico.

Just this week, the police asked for help in locating 20-year old Rosimar Rodríguez, who appears to be the victim of a kidnapping.

The young woman was forced into a car by unknown individuals on the night of Thursday, Sept. 17 in the Sabana Seca neighborhood of Toa Baja.

A witness told police that a man with a dark complexion, approximately 5 feet six inches tall, forcibly pushed Rodríguez into a white Suzuki vehicle against her will.

At the time of the incident, Rodríguez was wearing a gray shirt, blue denims and red and white sports shoes. The young woman is five feet five inches tall and weighs approximately 130 pounds.

Meanwhile, several girls reported missing in Ponce and Río Piedras have reappeared.

Police reported Tuesday that Kermarie Robles Albino, 13, who had been reported missing in the municipality of Ponce, was located alive and well. According to the police report, agent Rebecca Rosado from the Ponce Homicide Division said the mother of the minor brought her to the Ponce Area Station.

Two teenagers reported missing on Aug. 26 on La Paz Street in Río Piedras reappeared this week in good health, police reported.

According to the authorities, Esmeralda Burgos Medina, 14, and Jessica Marlene Vázquez Jiménez, 16, walked into police headquarters in Río Piedras, but further details were not immediately available.

Early this week, Women’s Advocate Lersy Boria and Popular Democratic Party candidate Ada Conde called for an end to violence against women.

Boria rejected the use of gender violence as a political football and noted that it won’t end with a tweet or a political rally. “Since I took over the position of Women’s Advocate, I have seen candidates discussing the issue of female violence as if it is a partisan football,” she said. “This is an issue of women’s rights. The subject of violence against women is being minimized.”

Anyone with information on Rosimar Rodríguez or another missing person’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Police Bureau at 787-343-2020.

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