Monday, March 10, 2014

Death by bus, in Guadalajara

Governor uses emergency powers to deal with safety issues, fares

*Updated Mar. 20 (at bottom)*
Guadalajara -
Last Friday a 53 year old metro bus driver here lost control of his vehicle and plowed into a crowd of 20 persons waiting on the curbside. When police arrived an 18 year old university student lay dead, and many others were injured. The conductor, whom prosecutors say was driving at excessive speed, has been charged with the Mexican equivalent of reckless manslaughter.

"Death by bus" is an increasingly common event in Guadalajara. The city's main daily, El Informador, reports that 14 persons have been killed by buses since Jan. 1, and another 70 injured. Victims are usually pedestrians crossing the street, or bicyclists. Children as well as adults have died.

Buses killed so many people in 2012 that a local drug cartel allegedly began taking its revenge on drivers. Bus driver executions surge in Guadalajara, but why? Most of those murders have not been solved.

Today about 500 university and high school students staged a noisy protest in the city's main plaza which almost erupted into violence. Riot equipped police withstood rocks, water bottles and eggs, but on several occasions a few demonstrators charged the security line surrounding the municipal palace. A handful were arrested.

Students were not only protesting homicide by inattention, but bus fares too, which were raised from six to seven pesos a few months ago. A Mexican peso is worth less than $0.08, but for students and many others who are already financially stressed, and who must make multiple trips a day on buses, it all adds up. So last weekend Jalisco governor Aristóteles Sandoval Díaz issued an emergency state transportation decree for the first time, rolling back fares to six pesos. Metro bus companies, which operate under state awarded concessions, will not be able to charge seven pesos again until they undertake major reforms, including better training for drivers and safety enhancements for their often rickety vehicles.

Estimated costs for retrofitting buses and getting them up to required standards are about 30,000 pesos per unit ($2,300 USD). In the meantime, operators must prominently display the new fare.

This protester had not the slightest interest in bus issues. He showed up just to let everybody know how much he dislikes the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI): "Out with PRI; they're selling off the homeland."

Mar. 20 - It's not just Guadalajara buses which are dangerous. A U.S. couple visiting Puerto Vallarta were run down by a city bus about 8:00 p.m. yesterday. The tourists, from Arizona, were identified as Paul and Rhoda Fuchs, with reported ages of 85 and 84. He broke his left leg, and she was badly bruised. The 42 year old driver is in custody.

© MGR 2014. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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