The governor of Tabasco has endorsed a new state law stipulating that drivers for Uber and similar ride-sharing services can be imprisoned for up to six years.
The Tabasco Secretariat of Transport issued a statement earlier this month reminding residents that the criminal code was modified last year and that the “improper provision” of public transport services is now a crime.
People who provide unauthorized public transportation in private vehicles — including drivers of “pirate” taxis and driver-partners of Uber, Didi and Beat — could be sanctioned with prison terms of between two and six years and fines of up to 1,000 times the daily minimum wage – about 123,000 pesos (US $6,500) – the secretariat said.
In an interview with the newspaper Milenio, Morena party Governor Adán Augusto López Hernández declared that “the position of the Secretariat of Transport is the position of the government,” stressing that drivers for Uber and similar services “have neither the authorization nor the license to operate legally.”
Public transport is a “monopoly” of the state government, López said, adding that anyone wishing to provide a service in the sector must comply with certain requirements. The governor charged that the high rate of unemployment was no excuse for working illegally.
“That there is unemployment in Tabasco cannot be used as an excuse to say, ‘I bought a car and now I provide a public transport service without a permit. . .’” López said. “Because then there would be no respect for the rule of law.”
For their part, drivers for ride-sharing services in Tabasco say they do the work because there are few other jobs – the Gulf coast state ended 2019 with an official unemployment rate of 6.4%, the highest in the country.
However, the possibility of prosecution has given some Uber drivers pause for thought.
“Because of the Transport Secretariat’s recent statement, a lot of us have hesitated to go out to work as we normally did,” a driver told Milenio.
“A lot don’t go out due to fear that the hunting [by police of ride-share drivers] will start.”