Citizens and Politicians Unite Against Toll Booth

Residents are fed up with having to pay to travel within their city

TIJUANA.- A group of residents living in more than a dozen gated communities south of the Playas de Tijuana toll booth reunited on November 28, 2015 to once again protest what they believe is a violation of their constitutional right to freely travel to and from their homes. During part of the protest, attendees held up the toll booth booms so that motorists could freely pass.

"Enough with the Injustice" read a sign held by one of the 400 protesters yesterday afternoon.

Some residents estimate they pay as much as $400 pesos a week to travel from home to work, and school, and just to get to Tijuana - the city to which they pay their property taxes. Many residents are forced to pay toll charges up to six times a day to get to work or take their children to and from school and to extracurricular activities. Although residents are entitled to a fifty percent discount, families are limited to two discounted passes and must comply with burdensome requirements to qualify for the discount. The group believes that residents should receive a full exemption from the toll charge, to travel down a highway whose construction has long past been financed and paid for.

[img srcThumb="" srcLink="" size="medium"]A protester holds a sign that reads

"Enough! Free Circulation in our Delegation"[/img]

This is the second protest that the group has organized after many months of efforts in vain to seek assistance from Tijuana's mayor, Jorge Astaizarán, to help his consituents. While the toll booth is administered by the federal highway commission and BANOBRAS (the state-owned development and infrastructure bank that receives the toll proceeds), the group has hoped that local government would help negotiate the exemption — but to no avail. A complicated legal process known as a "recurso de amparo," a type of constitutional injunction, is making its way through the legal system, but the group argues that local government should intervene and push the issue with the federal government given that the toll charge is a violation of its residents' constitutional rights.

A public message posted by the group leading up to the protest, stated, "we are a city divided by a toll booth and without a free route to travel; we are helplessly trying to receive support from our government and being ignored, so we will take to the streets and demand our right to freely travel with hopes that they will call for an exemption from the toll booth charge."

Many local politicians came out to support the group's demands, including Rep. Miriam Ayón, Rep. Cuahtémoc Cardona Benavides, Rep. Gerardo Álvarez, and Rep. Fausto Gallardo along with city councilmember Felipe Ledezma who is also campaigning under the Peninsular Party of the Californias (PPC), a party that is promoting the idea of Baja California obtaining independence from the federation. The toll booth charge, according to Felipe Ledezma, is a prime example of how the federal government takes advantage of Baja California, without regard for its citizens. According to the PPC, only 2% of what Baja California generates in tax revenue for the federal government is returned to the State's coffers, "returning merely the crumbs of what we and our state generate."

A similar sentiment applies to the toll booth charge, which is operated out of Mexico City and does not take into consideration the fact that local residents must either pay the toll to travel within their city, or travel south to the city of Rosarito and then loop back north in order to take a free road to Tijuana. The group argues that the the lack of a free route for Tijuana residents to travel on within their city places an unfair and unreasonable burden on them and violates the federal Constitution. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the City of Tijuana to help its residents obtain exemption from the toll booth charge from the federal government.

Just days before the protest, Monica Serrano, the leader of the group of residents pushing for the exemption, delivered a letter to the Secretary of Highways and Transportation, Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, during his attendance at the inauguration of the newly opened second entry bridge into Playas de Tijuana. The letter expressed the group's request that residents receive a full exemption from the toll booth charge. Despite his visit to the region, Tijuana mayor's office did nothing to facilitate a meeting between the group and the Secretary — an example, they say, of how their needs are being ignored by their elected officials.

The "No Toll Booth Charges for Residents" Group claims that they will continue to organize monthly protests until their demands are met and the estimated 12,000 residents are allowed to freely travel to and from their homes. Meanwhile, the amparo is set to be reviewed by a district judge February 2016, and the group hopes that a favorable decision will be rendered.



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