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November 21, 2014
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City vows to extend Metrobus to 56 km

Buenos Aires City Cabinet Chief Horacio Rodríguez Larreta (centre) speaks yesterday at the Legislature.
Cabinet chief tells Legislature cooperation with federal gov’t better, backs Metropolitan police

Buenos Aires City Cabinet Chief Horacio Rodríguez Larreta yesterday gave his first report in the City Legislature since June 2012 and took the opportunity to highlight the government’s plans to extend the existing Metrobus networks with four additional Metrobus lines to be established along the Cabildo, Paseo Colón and San Martín avenues as well as the 25 de Mayo highway.

He also took the opportunity to state another defence of the PRO administration in light of the violence that took place at the Obelisk on Sunday night.

The projects had been first mentioned in October but yesterday’s announcement gave them new impetus. Yesterday was the Cabinet chief’s first report to the City Legislature in over two years, despite an obligation that he address the body twice a year.

Public transport a priority

According to Rodríguez Larreta, the additional links will benefit “more than a million passengers” as part of the administration’s efforts to “prioritize public transport by generating predictability, greater road safety, reduced travel time and reduced pollution.” Furthermore, the existing 38-kilometre network that operates along the 9 de Julio and Juan B. Justo avenues will be extended to 56 kilometres by 2015.

However, the new routes will not be completely inter-connected.

The Metrobus system — which features the creation of special lines reserved for public transport buses along major avenues and the re-routing of buses off secondary roads — has been seen as a success despite initial criticisms. In general it has decreased travel times for buses and de-congested the smaller secondary roads. It has also become one of the signature public works projects carried out by the centre-right Mauricio Macri administration.

Nonetheless, opposition lawmakers in the Legislature immediately voiced criticisms of the plans on the grounds that they would affect historic landmarks and prove counterproductive to existing transport projects.

“Why doesn’t the City comply with law 670?” asked Alejandro Bodart of the MST-New Left party. The law specifies that the City’s underground reach Puente Saavedra, the northern border with the Buenos Aires province — and a Metrobus along Avenida Cabildo would clash with that goal. Similarly, a new Metrobus along the avenue would undo the City’s work to establish boulevards along the main artery serving the Belgrano and Saavedra neighbourhoods.

The plans for the Metrobus along Paseo Colón also generated complaints as it is presumed that homes, historic facades and institutions in San Telmo would have to make way for a widened avenue. Neighborhood assemblies and organizations have already been holding protests rejecting such a move.

“Underneath the Avenida 25 de Mayo there is a school for homeless children and centre for vulnerable youth. Are you going to re-locate them?” asked Virginia González Gaas of the Authentic Socialist Party (PSA). In addition, the “Club Atletico” memorial to the victims of the military dictatorship is on Paseo Colón — but city authorities have in the past said that it would not be affected by any works.

cooperation and tension with national government

In the aftermath of the pitched battles at the Obelisk on Sunday night and the blame game between the political leadership of the Federal and Metropolitan police forces, Rodríguez Larreta emphasized increased cooperation with the government while also responding to attacks over the incidents.

“There are matters under discussion, we have recommenced talk and we are advancing on the much-needed riverside highway,” Rodríguez Larreta said at the beginning of his address. The highway would act as a corridor connecting the North and the South of the City as part of a connection between the Illia and Buenos Aires-La Plata highways and requires approval from both the City and the federal governments.

Rodríguez Larreta also pointed to the inauguration of an extended section to the Illia highway as another example of the cooperation between the previously extremely antagonistic administrations.

Nonetheless, Rodríguez Larreta responded to criticisms launched by various opposition lawmakers about the role played by the Metropolitan police during the incidents at the Obelisk following the World Cup Final. Federal Security Secretary Berni on Monday accused the Metropolitan police and its political leadership of abandoning its responsibilities and considered the practice “a systematic problem.” Federal police officers bore the brunt of the violence and lead the charges and arrests and the Metropolitan police arrived at the scene hours later.

“It had been previously agreed that the responsibility for securing the Obelisk fell under the Federal police’s purview,” Rodríguez Larreta said. “The Metropolitan police was in charge of the viewing areas at Plaza San Martín and Parque Centenario. We had 100,000 people at Plaza San Martín and there wasn’t a single incident,” he added. He also noted that the Metropolitan police was available to assist the Federal Police as soon as the crowds had dispersed from the Plaza San Martín and its surroundings.

The Cabinet chief also added that “we want the Metropolitan police to be in charge” of policing the entirety of Buenos Aires City. Since it’s creation it has only assumed responsibility for a few neighbourhoods from the Federal Police.

For his part, former Buenos Aires City mayor Aníbal Ibarra — now a lawmaker with the Popular Progressive Front — criticized the lack of progress over the implementation of the law establishing open, simultaneous and obligatory primaries (PASO) and single ballots. Ibarra speculated that perhaps the PRO is “thinking about unifying the elections and not implementing the PASO and the single ballot in the City of Buenos Aires,” and asked Rodríguez Larreta if they would be in force for the 2015 elections. The Cabinet chief did not provide an answer to the question.

Herald with Télam

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