By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Sunday, December 10th, Rio de Janeiro State’s public prosecutor’s office (MPRJ), announced it had obtained an order from the 8th Public Treasury Court, leveling a R$200,000 fine against former Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes.
The court also brought the fine against former Transportation Secretary Rafael Picciani, both for failing to ensure that Rio’s 8,000-plus municipal buses have air-conditioning.
The MPRJ brought the suit against the two former officials alleging that they were required to have the entirety of Rio’s bus fleet equipped with air conditioning by the end of 2016. According to MPRJ, they “did not try to meet the obligation of this goal.”
The MPRJ added that ex-Mayor Paes had all the power to have remedied this situation. “The municipal executive was fully able to adopt administrative and even judicial measures (against concessionaires) to fulfill exactly these provisional mandates and not create the embarrassment of the execution of judicial orders.”
Upon hearing of the news, ex-Mayor Paes released a statement asserting that the concessionaire contract did not obligate Rio’s buses to have air conditioning.
“It should be clarified that the concession contract bid did not require buses to have air conditioning,” exclaimed Paes, who also added, “When I arrived at City Hall, there were no bus lines with air conditioning. There was a gradual process of adaptation of the fleet and when I left the city seventy percent of trips made on the Bilhete Único were on air conditioned buses.”
“We made every effort and went from zero to seventy percent, a major breakthrough.”
A spokesperson for Rafael Picciani said the former Transportation Secretary is waiting to be officially notified of the Court’s decision before addressing the allegations.
This is not the first time this year that the MPRJ has succeeded in a case involving Rio’s municipal buses.
In August, the MPRJ succeeded in obtaining an order from the 13th Public Treasury Court for a bus fare reduction from R$3.80 to R$3.60. Then, last month, they achieved another win for an additional R$0.20 reduction to R$3.40.
Recently, current Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella took to Facebook to post a video saying that despite the bus companies complaints regarding the fare reductions, “the ticket prices are fair” with respect to the service provided, especially considering that the concessionaires have still not yet installed air-conditions on all of its buses.
According to a 2017 survey conducted by the Municipal Transportation Department, only 48 percent of municipal buses were air-conditioned, or approximately 3,960 of the city’s 8,158 buses.