Columbian taxi drivers protest against Uber, 16 arrested

Thousands of taxi drivers protest against Uber company, causing traffic congestion across Bogota, Colombian capital

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Cab drivers block an avenue to protest the app-based taxi service Uber in Bogota, Colombia, Monday, March 14, 2016. The cab drivers consider the service illegal and unfair competition. The text on the windshield of the cab means "No more Uber". [AP]

Thousands of taxi drivers on Monday protested against the Uber taxi-booking mobile service, causing traffic congestion across Bogota, the Colombian capital.

Sixteen people have been arrested during a major demonstration by Bogota taxi drivers against ride-sharing app Uber, authorities said.

Thousands of taxi drivers, shouting slogans such as "Uber out" and "Down with piracy" nearly interrupted the city’s traffic.

Authorities arrested 16 people and issued 189 fines. Four police officers were injured.

"This protest wouldn't have happened if the government wasn't so permissive and had forced Uber out of the country," said Freddy Contreras, a spokesman for the taxi drivers.

As in other major cities in the world, cabbies in Bogota are against Uber, the California-based company found in 2009 that operates in 59 countries and is valued at more than $50 billion.

One taxi driver complained about Uber's unfair competitive advantage in Colombia, expressing Uber drivers' being exempt from the high fees taxis pay.

"Given the fact that we have to pay our insurance. Why do we have to pay for three insurance (policies) and they don't. They're illegal vehicles. They don't pay insurance," he said.

Last week, the authority overseeing public transportation in Colombia slapped Uber with 450 million pesos (about $142,000) for providing "unauthorized" transportation services.

An unidentified Uber driver said that amidst tensions his vehicle has been attacked.

"They want to break cars. I understand what they're doing but why break cars," he said.

Uber is banned outright in most of Western Europe. Similar protests against UberPOP took place in France in June, 2015 due to unfair competition between Uber and French taxi drivers. The French government banned UberPOP in France, just like Belgian and Dutch governments did in their countries.

Colombia is a major Latin American market for Uber.

TRTWorld and agencies