Taxi-drivers union fights to the death against Uber for lucrative Cancun market
CANCUN — With a market of billions of pesos at stake, the taxi drivers union “Andrés Quintana Roo” has maintained an open war for half a year against independent drivers affiliated with Uber, who have undergone a violent campaign of intimidation that has resulted in the death of one driver and the hospitalization of at least a dozen.
The battle has its origin: control of some of the country’s most lucrative public transportation routes, which generate more than 8 billion pesos a year ($400 million USD).
Taxi drivers can charge up to $700 pesos or $35 USD for their trips from Cancun Airport to the hotel zone; That same route costs around 200 pesos ($10 USD) with Uber.
“It is to be dealing with aggressions, they do not let you load the user, they try to intimidate you between groups of three or four taxi drivers. It’s because we charge much cheaper than them so they are so annoying, but they should not have to try to destroy the vehicles, “said Arid Maceda, Uber driver in Cancun.
So far, as confirmed by Uber to EL FINANCIERO, in less than half a year of operation, its drivers have filed 22 criminal complaints for injuries and three complaints before the State Human Rights Commission, but have received no response or follow-up from the authorities.
Images of the injuries, obtained by EL FINANCIERO, give an account of the level of violence that, according to those affected, has been exercised by the union to maintain control of the area. Broken noses, bruises on the head and back, torn clothing and blows to the face are seen in photographs taken by the drivers themselves who have documented the danger of challenging the union.
This confrontation has already taken a toll, warns Hadad Isaí Tec, who overturned his Uber car last January after an alleged hijacking by union drivers on the road to Punta Sam.
Self-defined at the time as “soldiers of priism”, union taxi drivers have openly expressed their support for the PRI of Quintana Roo for decades, which has served to fuel rallies and organize electoral operations, as evidenced by the June 2016 elections, when they mobilized without success to try to help elect Mauricio Góngora.
To the union’s aggressions, drivers must add the iron hand of the authorities of the Secretariat of Infrastructure and Transportation of Quintana Roo (SINTRA): in 155 days of operation, owners of automobiles which have challenged established taxi drivers have been fined with 76.5 million pesos. One thousand 288 vehicles, an average of eight daily, have been sent to the corralón (vehicle impound lot).
“I was targeted with a gun and the police stopped me and I was hit in the back of my Uber car to stop me. It was the police of the 54-4-48 unit,” reported one of the private drivers through a video on YouTube, on October 22, 2016. The recording shows the impounding of five cars by the Ministry of Infrastructure And Transportation.
FIVE YEARS BEHIND BARS
Today, members of the state Congress are promoting a law that would punish up to five years in prison the driver of Uber who is caught without concession. It is a sanction that in the local penal code would be at the same level as family violence and injuries, something unheard of in the country.
The proposal was made by Deputy Emiliano Ramos, brother of Alejandro Ramos, Director of Communications and Transport of SINTRA, now under the control of a coalition government of the PAN and the PRD.
“What I’m against is that they do not want to regulate themselves. What cannot be is that some carriers have concessions, a license granted by the State, certain rules and there is another transport that is not regulated by anyone, “said Emiliano Ramos.
After the defeat of the PRI, the leadership of the state PRD admits that there are those who want to gobble up the powerful guild of taxi drivers.
“They are taking advantage today, in inertia for the loss of the PRI. Through this deputy the PRD is opening the door to their current. There is a lot of money involved, a lack of transparency in finances, and there are multi-million dollar officials. A (taxi) plaque in Cancun can cost 350,000 pesos ($17,500 USD) and in Playa del Carmen half a million,” denounced Jorge Aguilar Osorio, president of the PRD in the state and who says he oposes the initiative of his colleague.