Taxi drivers surround an Uber car in Puerto Vallarta in June. Taxi drivers surround an Uber car in Puerto Vallarta in June.

Uber going to La Paz as taxis continue fight

Company sees high demand from residents and tourists

The ride-sharing service Uber has announced it expects to be operational in La Paz, Baja California Sur, by the end of the year, seemingly undeterred by conflicts with taxi drivers in other Mexican cities that in some cases have turned violent and even contributed to one death.

In a press release to BCS Noticias, the company said high demand from both local residents and tourists had persuaded it to enter the state capital.

“. . . so far this year more than 32,000 people have tried to request an Uber in the city,” the statement read.

Uber México communications manager Saúl Crespo said the company’s arrival would allow the connection of “every corner of the city at any hour of the day.”

“At Uber, we recognize the great potential La Paz has to attract more and more national and international tourists and we know that having an option of safe, efficient and accessible mobility will improve the experience of their visit and encourage them to go to places that they couldn’t otherwise get to,” he added.

Uber predicts that its entry into the transportation market will create 2,000 jobs in the city. Recruitment for drivers is already under way.

A recent announcement by the state government that it wouldn’t allow any ride-sharing services to enter the market without first obtaining the same licenses that conventional taxis require doesn’t appear to have deterred the company.

Rising levels of violence in the state have also failed to dissuade the move.

Meanwhile, in other popular tourist destinations where Uber is already established, disgruntled taxi drivers continue to protest against the company they say has impacted on their livelihoods. In some cases they have resorted to illegal acts.

In Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, the situation recently worsened, according to a report by Radio Universidad de Guadalajara.

Drivers from the city’s fleet of yellow and white taxis have started blocking vehicles they suspect are working for the service, forcing drivers and their passengers to get out of the vehicle. Some incidents have resulted in violence.

A Puerto Vallarta security spokesman told Radio Universidad that authorities would not permit city residents and tourists to be affected or intimidated by the taxi drivers’ actions and urged witnesses to report any incidents.

In Cancún, Quintana Roo, tensions have turned even uglier and were reportedly responsible for the death of one taxi driver last week.

According to witnesses, an Uber driver ran over two taxi drivers last Thursday when he realized they had detected his presence as he pulled over to pick up a passenger.

Presumably fearful that he could be attacked or that his car would be damaged, he rapidly accelerated in an attempt to escape and accidentally hit the two taxi drivers, killing one and injuring the other.

The incident prompted members of one taxi drivers’ union to protest in front of a state Attorney General’s office in the city.

Protests by Cancún taxi drivers have been ongoing for the past year and they too have been blocking and in some cases seizing the vehicles of Uber drivers, sometimes accompanied by authorities who then seize the vehicles.

Fines of 50,000 pesos (US $2,630) have been charged to drivers in order to retrieve their vehicles.

Other cases have resulted in punctured tires, broken windows and both verbal and physical violence.

Taxi drivers have also clashed with Uber chauffeurs in other Mexican cities including Mexico City and the Pacific coast city of Mazatlán, Sinaloa. The company, based in San Francisco, California, first entered the Mexican market in 2013.

Source: BCS Noticias (sp), Radio Universidad de Guadalajara (sp), El Universal (sp)

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