Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Thursday inaugurated one of Europe’s largest bridges, the Puente de la Constitución 1812, which links Cádiz with the town of Puerto Real, in southwestern Spain.
The bridge, named after an influential bill of rights drafted in the Andalusian city, represents a feat of engineering that will provide the near-island with its second over-the-water connection to the mainland. The middle portion of its five-kilometer span has removable decks to let large ships through, a significant issue in a major port like Cádiz.
But the project has also been fraught with controversy after the completion date was pushed back four years and the budget ballooned from the original €272 million to €511 million.
Around 300 local residents marched at either end of the bridge to demand jobs
Most recently, the new mayor of Cádiz, José María ‘Kichi’ González, complained that he had not been invited to the inauguration ceremony. González, of the leftist Por Cádiz sí se puede coalition, received a last-minute invite from the Popular Party (PP) government, but critics say that the conservatives – who ruled the city of Cádiz uninterruptedly from 1995 to May of this year – are using the bridge opening as part of their own campaign ahead of general elections due to be held later this year.
Also present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony was Andalusian regional premier Susana Díaz, of the Socialist Party, who said the bridge was for all citizens.
“It doesn’t matter who cuts the ribbon, this work does not belong to anyone in particular, it belongs to everyone,” said Díaz as she stood 69 meters above the sea. The highest point of the cable-stayed bridge is 185 meters.
Speaking after her, Rajoy delivered a similar message.
“We have to be capable of collaborating because the efforts are worth it,” he said.
Following the ceremony, Cádiz Mayor González delivered a letter to Rajoy containing a report by Cádiz shipyard workers in which they expressed their fear over the lack of jobs in a sector that has been hard hit by international competition and the economic crisis.
“This is the real goal,” said González about an area with one of Spain’s highest unemployment rates – over 42 percent in early 2015 for Cádiz province.
Around 300 local residents marched at either end of the bridge to protest the fact that regular citizens had not been invited to the ceremony, and to demand more jobs.
English version by Susana Urra.