Before sunrise, the main access routes to the capital were already painted red with taxis. The taxi drivers came out ready to make a stand.
Starting at 4:40 a.m., foreseeing the taxi drivers’ movement, government officials such as the President of the Republic, Luis Guillermo Solis, and Security Minister Gustavo Mata coordinated police control that filled the public streets. They were ready too.
Before 6:30 a.m., police detained the first four taxi drivers of the day. They were demonstrating in the Hispanidad roundabout in San Pedro de Montes de Oca, and were arrested after police stopped the roadblock at that site.
After this, the police moved on to places like the Juan Santamaria Airport and the Valencia de Heredia, adding up to a total of 32 detainees by 9 a.m.
More and more points in the Greater Metropolitan Area were converted into a game of cat and mouse, police officers chasing taxi drivers and then rerouting to other points. The everyday life of the center of the country, which already sees daily morning traffic jams, was transformed with the two new actors on the road.
Consequences of protest
Three demonstrators were detained as a result of one of the protests yesterday at the Hispanidad roundabout in San Pedro de Montes de Oca. They remain in the Second Judicial Circuit of the Office of the Prosecutor in San Jose.
One of the men, Quesada Navarro, was blamed for alleged aggression against an official of the Public Force, who even lost some teeth in the confrontation.
The two other men are Aguilar Barboza and Vargas Villalobos, who were blamed for an alleged crime of resistance, confirmed by the Press Office of the Public Ministry.
“The three people remain detained, pending their statement,” said the Press Office.
The taxi driver protests generated road chaos in various parts of the Greater Metropolitan Area, especially along General Canas Highway, Route 27, the Galera intersection in Curridabat, the Hispanidad roundabout in San Pedro de Montes de Oca, and Route 32, among other points.
Public Safety confirmed that there was a total of 74 people apprehended yesterday, including these three suspects. The 71 remaining received fines for misdemeanors.
So…what do they want?
Basically, to get rid of Uber.
The meeting between lead taxi drivers and the Regulatory Authority of Public Services (ARESEP) is set for next Tuesday, August 16th, in order to analyze the legal powers of taxi drivers to block Uber services in the country.
Spokeswoman for ARESEP Carolina Mora confirmed that the General Regulator Roberto Jimenez opened discussion following the requests of taxi drivers made during their protest on Tuesday.
As Mora explained, to be determined in the remaining week is the scope and legal constraints that ARESEP has to make a decision like the one taxi drivers are now asking for.
History of red taxi vs. Uber battle
Uber came to Costa Rica in August 2015. The company started accepting requests for rides before they had come to a formal agreement with the Public Works and Transport Ministry. MOPT warned on Facebook that drivers could be fined ₡110,000 and lose their license plates if caught driving for Uber, but there was no mention of how the ministry would enforce this rule in a city where unlicensed taxis are already an everyday occurrence.
Uber has been under some scrutiny since arriving in Costa Rica, especially by taxi drivers. There were a series of demonstrations from official taxi drivers earlier in the year. Protests have been staged in front of Casa Presidencial, at President Luis Guillermo Solís’ house, along major highways, at the San Jose Administrative Court in Goicoechea, and in downtown San Jose.
“We either unite or lose our jobs. United is the only way we can defend our jobs,” the group wrote in a Facebook post. The post asks all taxi drivers to join union leaders in the legal case against Uber by signing the complaint.
Since then, there has been little done to stop the company from taking over the shuttle industry in San Jose and other parts of Costa Rica. It has become quite popular, especially with young people. Uber is a way to maneuver through the traffic jams that plague public transport in the city, but it is also adding to the number of cars on the road – which can be making the traffic jams even worse.