Puerto Rico 2022
Killings by police disproportionately affected low-income racially mixed communities. Activists protested environmental degradation. A total of five bills seeking to restrict access to abortion were defeated.
In September, Hurricane Fiona resulted in widespread flooding, leaving 1.5 million people temporarily without electricity, according to news reports. At least 39 people died following the hurricane, either as a direct result of the hurricane or due to health issues aggravated by electricity outages.
Excessive use of force
In March, the NGO Kilómetro 0 published a report highlighting ongoing concerns around killings by the police on the island. The report found that law enforcement officials killed at least 71 people between 2014 and 2020, an average of 10 people each year, and that a significant number of those shot were not carrying a firearm.
The report also found that people living in low-income racially mixed communities were twice as likely to be killed by the police as those living in mostly white low-income communities.
In February, according to news reports, a court blocked the construction of a recreational area in a condominium close to the beach in the town of Rincón on several grounds, including that part of the land was protected as it is important habitat for endangered species such as sea turtles and part of it was at high risk of flooding. The government had given permission for the development despite environmental concerns.
In April, also according to media reports, the civil society organization Surfrider Puerto Rico Foundation criticized the development of housing in the seaside town of Aguadilla, arguing that it would destroy environmentally important land and vegetation.
In May, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources stopped some other works that were being carried out in Aguadilla on the grounds that the construction breached environmental laws.
Freedom of assembly
On various occasions during the year, the authorities responded to protests over development plans in areas of environmental importance by deploying a disproportionate number of police.
In August, hundreds of people protested against the island’s electricity company over electricity outages and the rising cost of energy bills. There were reports of excessive use of force by the police and of violence by protesters.
Violence against women and girls
Between January and November, according to Puerto Rico’s Observatory on Gender Equity, there were 70 gender-based killings of women, compared with 58 for the same period in 2021. The number of femicides in 2022 was the highest for four years.
Sexual and reproductive rights
In Puerto Rico, abortion is permitted at any stage of a pregnancy when carried out by a doctor to conserve the life or health, including the mental health, of the pregnant person.1
In June, the US Supreme Court overturned the decision in Roe vs Wade, which protected the right to abortion at the federal level, leaving decisions about access to abortion to individual US states.
By November, a total of five bills seeking to restrict access to abortion were before the House of Representatives. However, feminist organizations, including the Coalición por un Aborto Libre, Seguro y Accesible and Inter Mujeres, raised concerns that restrictions on abortion access would disproportionately affect women on low incomes and women experiencing gender-based violence. These bills were subsequently defeated in an internal vote in the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico.
The Department of Education announced that it would implement a new curriculum on equality and respect in 2023. This curriculum was selected instead of another curriculum with a gender perspective that had been developed by human rights organizations and feminist groups in response to the declaration of a state of emergency regarding gender-based violence.
LGBTI people’s rights
In May, Puerto Rico’s Commission on Human Rights and Labour Affairs dropped proposals for a bill of rights for LGBTI people.
In July, the Department of Health ended the requirement for health professionals to receive continuous education about LGBTI issues. However, following public pressure, it reinstated the requirement, originally included in Executive Order 398 of 2018.
The General Prosecutor’s Office failed to make progress in bringing to justice those responsible for the killing of Alexa, a transgender woman, in 2020.