Forty Quito police were called in to separate groups opposing and supporting a bus fare increase. The disturbance began outside the metropolitan council building as members debated increasing bus fare from 25 to 30 cents.
Police reported some pushing and shoving and angry verbal exchanges before order was restored to a crowd estimated at 500.
Members of the Unidad Popular Front, most of them bus riders, claimed that passengers cannot afford a fare increase under current economic conditions. “Our people are poor and can’t afford it and even if they could, why pay more for terrible service,” said Natasha Rojas, Unidad Popular director.
On the other side of the police line, Julio Moreno, owner of the Victoria Tranport Company, called the protesters “unreasonable,” claiming that bus fares have been frozen for 14 years. “Prices for everything have gone up since 2003 and the government can’t expect us to continue operating under current conditions. People complain about old buses and bad service but how can that change unless we have more operating money.”
Bus owners were joined by dozens of drivers who say their pay in not adequate. “The owners can’t pay us more until the fare goes up,” said José Martinez. “They want to keep things the way they are and that means we can’t make a living,” he added, pointing to Unidad Popular protesters.
After most of the protesters had gone home, the Quito municipal council voted to increase the fare to 30 cents.