14ymedio, Havana, 18 June 2016 — The Directorate General of Transportation has taken a further step to freeze the fares for private transportation in Havana. Price controls take effect this coming Monday, and a phone number – 18820 – has been established for customers to denounce boteros (“boatmen” as the drivers are popularly called) who raise prices on the passengers, according to the official press.
Drivers who violate the prices agreed by the state entity will be penalized by the confiscation of their licenses to work as self-employed. A measure that has begun to raise complaints among the private drivers of passengers transport.
This Saturday, around Fraternity Park, one of the starting points of the so-called “almendrones,” opinions were being voices about the price controls. Some drovers said that they wouldn’t drive on Monday, a way to pressure the government to withdraw the measure.
“I am going to take this opportunity to do some repairs on the car and wait to see what happens with all this madness,” Luis Tamayo, driver car model popularly known as a pisi-corre (station wagon), told 14ymedio. However, the man also clarified that no agreement has been reached among those affected. “No, it’s not about a strike, but we will wait until everything calms down,” he emphasized.
The driver fears that the telephone number for complaints will be used “ to take on people who haven’t committed any violation. Anyone who has something against me, could call this command post and end by ability to make a living,” he explains.
The Provincial Director of Transportation in Havana, José Conesa González, said in a press conference, that a process of written notice to all carriers and their assistants has begun. In the document it states that prices are not to be increased higher than those “referenced as of 30 June of the current year.”
However, the drivers allege an increase in the price of fuel in the informal market, due to the cuts in the oil supply of state entities from where it is diverted to the illegal networks. The cost of a liter of fuel bought “under the table” has risen from 8 to 15 Cuban pesos (CUPs). The gas stations sell it for more (1 Cuban convertible peso, the equivalent of 24 Cuban pesos), and to few of the drivers buy it in the state service stations.
“The government has failed us all these years because it has not facilitated a wholesale price to buy oil or gasoline,” the driver a jeep who drives the route to Alamar, to the east fo the city, said on Saturday outside the capitol building.
The acting vice president of the Monitoring and Control Activity, Isabel Hamze Ruiz, said at an emergency meeting that conditions “have not changed” to justify an increase in the cost of transport and that the price of fuel is “stabilized” in the country. Nor have the fees and taxes paid by the self-employed varied, according to the official.
Customers are torn between satisfaction and alarm at the capped prices. “It will happen like it did with pork and other foods, they capped the prices and now you have to get up at the crack of dawn to get anything,” Miriam, a mother of two, complained this morning while waiting for an almendrón near the Computer Palace.
In a call to the new phone number to report drivers who violate the rules, this newspaper’s newsroom was able to confirm that it is already in service and works around the clock.