NPP lawmaker asks governor to reopen ‘chinchorros’
By John McPhaul
Citing the precarious economic situation in the western region of Puerto Rico given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rep. José “Che” Pérez Cordero asked Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced on Tuesday to allow the reopening, with strict health and safety measures, of businesses known as “chinchorros” (roadside stands).
“The western region of our island is one of the most affected by the measures imposed to combat COVID-19,” said Pérez Cordero, who represents District 18 (Aguada, Añasco, Moca, Rincón and Mayagüez) in a written statement. “Our economy is in danger, so we ask the Governor to amend the current Executive Order so that the operations of these businesses, the ‘chinchorros,’ are allowed. This reopening has to be done under the strictest health protocols, including work plans developed by experts such as epidemiologists and with the support of municipal governments; since these businesses are small operations, generally the owners manage and even work at them.”
“These businesses have been closed for months and many of them can’t take it any longer and will be forced to close operations permanently, leaving many people out of work, and that cannot be allowed [to happen],” added the New Progressive Party legislator, who chairs the House Legal Committee. “Those who operate these small businesses are parents whose only support is the [chinchorros]. Likewise, the municipalities receive income from the operations of the ‘chinchorros,’ income that is necessary now more than ever to deal with the pandemic and its effects. The vast majority of these stands are open-air establishments, which can operate under the standards of other similar businesses and under [extensive] and continuous regulation of agencies such as the Department of Health.”
With his appeal to the governor, Pérez Cordero joined the request made a few weeks ago by Coamo Mayor Juan Carlos García Padilla, who also asked that the chinchorros be reopened.
Puerto Rico’s economy has contracted severely since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March. According to data from the island Planning Board, in the first seven months of the year sales were 11.4 percent below those of the same period last year. Small businesses saw a decrease in sales of 21.7 percent.
A chinchorro is usually operated by a single family that depends on the income generated by the establishment. Although there are no exact statistics, according to the statement, the chinchorro businesses in the island’s western region employ between 3,000 and 5,000 people directly and indirectly. Chinchorros across the island, including in the San Juan metro area, have been affected as well.