After endless traffic jams and chaos, police modify schedule of roadblocks

By John McPhaul

Puerto Rico Police Bureau Commissioner Henry Escalera Rivera said Tuesday in a radio interview that the police will modify the schedule of roadblocks, which have been implemented to help stop the rise in coronavirus infections on the island.

On Monday the roadblocks caused extensive traffic congestion.

“The schedules are going to be modified. It depends on the region that is being impacted,” Escalera Rivera said in a radio interview with Rubén Sánchez on WKAQ 580 AM. “We are going to make adjustments so that what citizens are protesting does not happen.”

“It should not happen again” that someone is in a traffic jam for hours due to a roadblock, Escalera Rivera added in response to complaints by afternoon commuters of being delayed for hours due to the roadblocks.

“We are going to evaluate [the scheduling of roadblocks] so that they are not at a time that harms the citizens who are going to their jobs, to their residences,” the police commissioner said.

According to the latest executive order issued by Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced, the overnight curfew began Monday at 9 p.m. instead of 10 p.m., as had been the case for many months.

The nightly curfew ends at 5 a.m.

The new executive order will apply until Thursday, Jan. 7.

On Monday, Lt. Elvin Zeno, director of the Police Traffic Bureau, said Escalera Rivera “gave us instructions to start the blockades [on the roads] again.”

“We had essentially stopped [the roadblocks] since February because of COVID-19,” Zeno said. “We already started [them] again. And since he [Escalera Rivera] gave us the instructions, we are going to comply with them. There will be three blockades every day in different police areas.”

Starting at 4 p.m. Monday there were roadblocks in the police areas of Aguadilla, Caguas and Carolina. Tuesday blockades took place in the police areas of Fajardo, Ponce and Utuado.

“We will be very attentive to any violation and we will observe, for example, that if the people who are [in] a vehicle are not part of the same nuclear family, they must be wearing masks or they will be subject to a fine of $100 each,” Zeno said Monday. “The blockades will be carried out in an orderly manner to avoid, as far as possible, affecting traffic. The line at a roadblock will be established in the area of the shoulder of the road so that traffic flow in the lanes is maintained.”

Public Safety Secretary Pedro Janer said meanwhile that there will be roadblocks around the island throughout December.

“Our commitment to our citizens is to guarantee safety on the highways and ensure compliance with Executive Order 2020-087 signed by Governor Vázquez Garced, in force until Jan. 7, 2021,” Janer said in a written statement Monday. “This year, the holiday season will be different from what we are used to and we urge people to stay safe and celebrate holidays only with those who make up their nuclear family, only in this way can we prevent COVID-19 infection.”

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