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Taxi drivers march in Mexico City on Monday. Taxi drivers march in Mexico City on Monday.

Taxi drivers’ protest provokes commuter backlash, calls for boycott

Mexico City traffic chaos was created by just 0.4% of licensed drivers, mayor observes

Thousands of social media users called for a taxi boycott after Mexico City taxi drivers caused traffic chaos on Monday by setting up blockades to demand stricter regulation of app-based ride-hailing services.

The hashtag #unasemanasintaxis (a week without taxis) has been used more than 35,000 times on Twitter to encourage people to join the cause.

“Join the campaign: for each day that taxi drivers block the city, we the users will stop using taxis for a week. [Then] you’ll see that their damn smiles will be wiped off their faces,” said one flyer that circulated widely on the digital platform.

Twitter user Eva Prianti went a step further, suggesting that a permanent boycott of taxis would be better than one that only lasted a week.

“. . . How can the citizens show solidarity with them [taxi drivers] when they couldn’t care less about the chaos, the [economic] losses and the harm they’re doing to people . . .” she wrote.

José Antonio Lara, another Twitter user who used the hashtag, said the actions of taxi drivers would “generate more distrust” among Mexico City residents rather than “arouse sympathy” for their plight.

A video posted to Twitter that was shared almost 100 times showed a taxi driver giving instructions about how to tamper with the meter in order to charge passengers more.

Mexico City residents held up by a taxi blockade at the Angel of Independence monument on Reforma avenue also expressed anger and frustration at the taxi drivers.

Adriana Zazueda told the newspaper Reforma that drivers are not only losing money because of the increased competition of the ride-hailing services but also because “they offer poor service [and] tamper with the meters.”

Daniela Martinez, an officer worker who said that she would arrive at work two hours late, claimed that “the protest is useless,” adding that “if someone wants to request a taxi now, there aren’t any so they’ll use an app.”

She also said that taxi drivers need to improve the service they offer to their passengers.

It's been six years since Uber arrived in Mexico City,
It’s been six years since Uber arrived in Mexico City, and taxi drivers have been unhappy ever since.

Meanwhile, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum claimed in a video posted to social media on Monday night that just 0.4% of licensed drivers participated in the blockades.

“The fundamental reason why some Mexico City taxi drivers set up these blockades is that they’re angry because the city government has taken a series of actions to put an end to corruption and to guarantee the safety and the quality of [taxi] service,” she said.

By issuing taxi licenses online, two corrupt licensing centers have been put out of business, Sheinbaum said, adding that her administration has developed the mobile app “Mi Taxi,” which allows passengers to rate their driver and to advise family or friends of their location in real time.

“The second phase of this application, which will be ready at the end of this year, will allow . . . a taxi to be requested from a cell phone . . .” she said.

The mayor said that 99.6% of taxi drivers support the government’s efforts to put an end to corruption in the taxi sector and make the service safer for passengers.

“The city [government] is open to dialogue but let it be clear, the fight against corruption is not negotiable,” Sheinbaum said.

Drivers affiliated with the National Movement of Taxi Drivers blocked several major roads in and around the capital starting early Monday morning, including those used to access both terminals of the Mexico City airport.

After causing traffic chaos for almost 12 hours, the taxi drivers agreed to withdraw following the signing of an agreement with the federal government that will see the legality of app-based ride-hailing services examined.

Source: El Universal (sp), Reforma (sp) 

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