More than a hundred angry business and property owners blocked traffic Friday morning on Av. Las Americas at the Simon Bolivar redondel, protesting delays in tram construction. Work on the tram in the area has been idle for nine months.
“We keep hearing that a contractor will be selected and work will start again but nothing happens,” said business owner Jose Peñafiel. “We are sick of this, of being lied to and misled. We want answers from the mayor today.”
Some protesters carried signs claiming that the city’s mismanagement of the tramproject has made them bankrupt. Others carried signs demanding the resignation of Mayor Marcelo Cabrera.
Protester Julia Brito, who operates a restaurant near the protest, said unfinished construction posed a health hazard. “There’s dust everywhere in my restaurant and no one wants to eat there. Other people are raising children around here and they have to breath this terrible air,” she said.
Protesters formed a human chain across the roadway and refused to leave when city tranvía coordinator Edison Castro arrived, shouting, “We want Cabrera.”
After police persuaded the crowd to disperse, Castro announced on loudspeaker that a decision to hire a new project contractor would be made soon. “I am sending the mayor the recommendation on Monday and a choice will be made immediately afterward,” Castro said, referring to the evaluation of the two companies bidding to finish the project.
He added that work on Av. Las Americas will be a priority once work resumes.