Puerto Rico seeks to continue cockfighting in defiance of US law

Puerto Rico's Governor Wanda Vazquez signs a bill into law allowing cockfighting to continue in the US territory on December 18, 2019 (AFP Photo/Ricardo ARDUENGO)

San Juan (AFP) - Puerto Rico governor Wanda Vazquez on Wednesday signed a law that allows cockfighting in the US territory, in defiance of a federal law banning the fights.

Cockfights will be allowed to continue for another two years under the law, which came after the farm bill passed by the US Congress last year expanded a ban on cockfighting to US territories. That ban was set to take effect in Puerto Rico on Friday.

"Today, we finally signed the bill... in favor of the Puerto Rican galleros in recognition of the importance of the industry which, beyond its economic contribution, is part of our culture and tradition," Vazquez said.

"Gallero" is a term for cockfighting enthusiasts.

The bill seeks to circumvent the federal ban by barring the export or import of chicks and roosters for use in cockfights, making the business a purely local affair.

As there is no interstate animal trade, federal law "is not affected," Vazquez said.

The governor compared the case to that of marijuana, which is illegal at the federal level but legal in various US states.

"Obviously a court has the final decision," said Vazquez.

The governor also signed a resolution that allows her and Puerto Rico's representative in the US Congress, Jennifer Gonzalez, to lobby for a five-year moratorium on the federal ban.

Some 20,000 people have jobs directly or indirectly related to cockfighting in Puerto Rico.

Organizations related to the so-called "gentleman's sport" had demonstrated against the federal ban for several months, filing an unsuccessful legal challenge in federal court.