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Puerto Rico bill would ban street vendors, beggars

December 6, 2013

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A legislator in Puerto Rico has proposed a ban on panhandlers and vendors at intersections on the island, prompting criticism that the law would amount to an attack on the poor.

Rep. Jose Baez told reporters Friday that the bill he authored is intended to make roads safer at frequently congested intersections where panhandlers compete with vendors hawking water, newspapers and other goods to drivers. Adults and children also can be seen at intersections on weekends, collecting donations for personal causes.

“I know this has caused accidents,” he said. “When we’re driving through a stoplight, we have to slow down and become very aware of these people.”

Some Puerto Ricans have criticized the measure through radio shows and social media, saying it’s unfair to those who are homeless and who are trying to earn money amid an ongoing economic crisis.

Baez acknowledged those concerns and said that is one of the bill’s weaknesses, adding that he intends for people to debate the measure. He said potential amendments could include creating a schedule that would allow panhandlers and vendors at stoplights only during certain hours.

If the bill is approved, those found in violation of it could face penalties ranging from $200-$500.

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