► Thousands march through capital to protest changes to ‘Madrid Central’ plan
► Critics say Mayor aims to dismantle program to combat city’s foul air quality
Thousands of Madrid residents took to the streets Saturday to protest changes to the capital city’s ‘Madrid Central’ plan to combat air pollution, which new Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida of the conservative Partido Popular has pledged to dismantle just months after its introduction by the administration of former Mayor Manuela Carmena.
On Monday morning, Greenpeace Espana activists blocked a major artery giving access to the city centre to protest the lifting of fines for vehicles circulating without authorization in downtown Madrid. Critics of Martínez-Almeida say this first move by his administration is part of a plan to dismantle the central components of Madrid Central, which he campaigned against in the run-up to 26th May municipal elections that brought him to power.
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Saturday’s protest was organized by some 70 different civic, environmental and neighborhood groups under the banner of an umbrella group calling itself the Plataforma en defensa de Madrid Central.
According to organizers, 60,000 residents of the capital city took part in the protest, which featured a march through city streets from the downtown Plaza de Callao to the Plaza de Cibeles. Police put the number of marchers at 10,000.
Stiff fines previously imposed on vehicles circulating without authorization in downtown Madrid were lifted by the Martínez-Almeida administration on Monday for a period of 90 days. Critics say the essential components of the Madrid Central plan must be kept in place, claiming that in just four months of operation the plan has already proven itself highly effective in reducing air-pollution levels in Spain’s capital city.
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