Manifestations crippling several cities, lawsuits, physical attacks: the arrival of Uber and Cabify in Latin America sparked a wave of anger among taxi drivers who consider illegal these new transport services.
In many countries of the region (Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Panama, Chile), thousands of private drivers are already offering their services via these mobile applications, which charge them a 20% commission.
American firm Uber, founded in 2009 and present in 54 countries, has launched into the Latin American market by first establishing itself in Mexico City, a chaotic megalopolis of more than 20 million inhabitants to the 4 million vehicles in Circulation, which also makes it one of the most attractive markets in the region.
But if Uber was banned in some European cities and faces legal action in the United States, it was in Latin America that the reactions were most virulent.
“There will be dead”
In May, Mexican taxis managed to paralyze the traffic in the capital, and some of them went hunting for Uber or Cabify taxis.
“They hit one of my colleagues and I was chased by three taxis. They realize (as we work for Uber) when they see that we are using the app or that they spot a passenger in the back seat, “says Cristian Rivera, a 26-year-old mechanic who was converted to Uber because” Is an easy way to find work. “
The establishment of Uber in Bogotá was also accompanied by clashes. “There were illegal detainees, assaults with ball guns, voluntary shocks against cars or blasting of objects,” said AFP Adriana Garzon, spokesman for the company. Colombia.
In Brazil, where Uber launched an advertising campaign with the Brazilian top model Alessandra Ambrossio, the battle is also under way. Demonstrations are organized under the slogan: “In Rio, the taxi is yellow”.
During a discussion with regulators on regulation last Thursday, the president of the São Paulo taxi union warned that the conflict could end in violence: “there will be deaths,” he said .
The previous week, the mayor of the Brazilian megalopolis announced that he was going to charge a tax to Uber, which should increase his service.
Taxi or private driver?
“They are protesting because we are growing,” Ana Paula Blanco, Uber’s communications officer in Latin America, told AFP. But we are not competitors because we are not taxis, we are a technological platform used by our customers, drivers, to give a private car rental service with private chauffeur. “
Some customers praise the efficiency and safety provided by these private vehicles, unlike some taxis sometimes used to strip users.
But the taxi drivers have made their accounts and consider that it is not normal for an individual not to license to carry out this activity, when in Bogota a taxi driver pays $ 40,000, Mexico City $ 10,000, not including taxes and other miscellaneous taxes.
“Cabify is totally open to regulation as long as it is fair and equitable and geared towards the interests of the user,” says Ricardo Weder of Cabify Mexico.
In Colombia, the Ministry of Transport declared Uber illegal and obliged private drivers to pay a license of around US $ 3,000, while limiting this service, particularly in the vicinity of hotels or businesses, as well as for persons disabilities.
Despite these restrictions, Uber continues to grow and some traditional taxi drivers are considering switching to competition from the web.
“Work has greatly diminished with the arrival of Uber,” according to Dario Rodriguez, a 50-year-old Bogota driver, including 25 driving, who works with the application in his personal vehicle, “but discreetly so as not to be assaulted. “