Thousands of taxi drivers filled the streets of Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil Wednesday morning demanding that the government make good on its promise of a gasoline subsidy. The drivers are also demanding a crack-down on internet-based taxi services such as Uber and Cabify which operate without permits.
In Quito, representatives of the protesters met with government officials at the presidential palace and with leaders of the National Assembly to press their demands.
In Cuenca, protesters at Parque Calderon hoisted signs claiming “Government deception again!” and “Taxi apps are killing us” and heard speeches attacking the government for a lack of concern.
Meeting with taxi union representatives, Azuay Governor Xavier Martínez admitted that the government had been slow in following through on its promise to compensate taxi owners for higher gasoline prices imposed in November. “It is true that we pledged to pay the difference of the higher price for fuel and this has not yet happened,” he said. “I am in talks with the National Traffic Agency (ANT) about the matter and hope to have a resolution soon so the payments can be fulfilled.”
Martínez said the delay is the result of bookkeeping issues. “The ANT must comply with requirement of the national comptroller’s office before it provides payouts and these details are almost completed.”
Taxi drivers are also angry that taxi services such as Uber and Cabify are operating around the country without complying with regulations that apply to licensed taxis. “The government admits they operate illegally but they don’t enforce the laws,” says Jorge Calderón, president of the National Federation of Transport Operators (Fedotaxis).
“The international taxi apps are taking food out of the mouths of the families of our drivers and we demand new laws and enforcement of current ones,” Calderón says. “There are thousands of illegal app platform operators in the country, in Quito and Guayaquil and now in Cuenca, Riobamba and Machala, and they are stealing our livelihood.”
He and other Fedotaxis members presented National Assemblywoman María José Carrión with provisions to be included in the revision of the National Transit Law being debated in the assembly.