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Puerto Rico's new governor demands unity

PUERTO RICO GOVERNMENT | 02 de enero de 2013

Alejandro Garcia Padilla, sworn in as Puerto Rico's new governor on Jan. 2, 2013, greets supporters. EFE/File

San Juan, Jan 2 (EFE).- Alejandro Garcia Padilla on Wednesday during his inauguration as governor of Puerto Rico demanded unity among Puerto Ricans to build a better society.

He asked for the unity of his fellow Puerto Ricans in the face of the serious economic problems and crime confronting the Caribbean island.

"The solution is not on the shelves of a pharmacy, but within ourselves. The strength is in the heart of each Puerto Rican," The strength of our country is in our country," said Garcia Padilla, 41, the youngest governor in Puerto Rico's history.

The crime problem reached its apex in 2011 when more than 1,000 murders were committed during the year, while last year ended with around 950 homicides.

U.N. figures from 2008 put the island's murder rate at 20.3 homicides per 100,000 residents, compared with 5.0 per 100,000 in the rest of the United States.

Puerto Rican authorities blame most of the carnage on strife among rival drug gangs.

Meanwhile, the economy was significantly affected during the just-ended four-year term of Gov. Luis Fortuño, when he laid off 20,000 public employees, few of whom found new jobs in the private sector.

"We're living with unemployment and public debt indices higher than we had thought, and the distressing crime statistics have made Puerto Rico look at - and not recognize - itself," Garcia Padilla said.

"Another comeback is achievable. If we're not honest or transparent, we're in bad shape. The problems are very serious. The problems cannot be minimized, they cannot be hidden. Puerto Rico is betting on the recovery of the country. Each Puerto Rican is committed to unity," the former law professor said.

Among those attending Garcia Padilla's inauguration were Dominican President Danilo Medina, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and U.S. Reps. Nydia Velazquez, Luis Gutierrez and Jerry Costello.

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America in English