Cuban Government Gives Way and Modifies License for Private Carriers

The restrictions that were imposed under “the experiment” caused many drivers to turn in their licenses or increase prices. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 November 2019 — A little more than a year has been enough for the authorities to have back down on several measures adopted at the end of 2018 that restricted the work of private carriers in the Cuban capital, a sector that responded to these limitations with complaints and several strikes.

After an “experiment” that began in October last year in Havana, the Government now announces new modifications to the Transport Operation License (LOT). The regulation eliminates several of the limitations that comprised the official strategy of “perfecting” private transport service.

Among the most important modifications is the unification under the “regular” license, of the current “free” and “route” variants for passenger transportation. A duality strongly criticized when it was implemented more than a year ago because it added greater bureaucracy and limited carriers’ movements.

“The regular mode is the transport of passengers or cargo from a destination in an authorized traffic (…) can perform a door-to-door service (at the request of the user) and can not provide high comfort service or classic” service, Marta Oramas Rivero, First Deputy Minister of Transportation, said, speaking to the national media.

With this new denomination, the prices of fuel in national currency for all individuals under the “regular” license are set at 8 CUP per liter of diesel, similar to that of motor gasoline. While regular gasoline will cost 10 CUP per liter, and special gasoline, 15.

Before making these decisions, the authorities undertook “a broad process of receiving opinions, suggestions, and complaints, both from the population and from carriers,” Oramas explained.

At the end of 2018 the tension grew among Havana’s “boteros” (private drivers) in response to what was popularly called El Paquetazo (“the attack packet”) of measures approved by the local government and that included regulations covering aspects such as the purchase of fuel, routes and money management, with the requirement that drivers have a bank account in the country.

The discontent of the carriers in the face of these controls led them to promote several protest initiatives. One of them occurred in December 2018 with a call for a strike, baptized as El Trancón (The Big Traffic Jam), which was widely disseminated on social networks and independent media and which managed to include a significant number of drivers.

The restrictions that were imposed with “the experiment” also caused many drivers to renounce their licenses or increase fares, which rose even more after the worsening of the energy crisis that is plaguing the Island and causing a reduction in public transport services.

Private carriers have taken advantage of the vacuum left by the state apparatus and are an essential sector in passenger mobility. From horse-drawn cars, through old almendrones (as the almond-shaped classic American cars used as taxes are called) of the last century to more modern vehicles, self-employed taxis are vital so that the island does not come to a complete halt.

Now, the authorities have reversed many of their policies and the prices of the transportation services will be established by the transporters themselves, always taking into account the maximum fares approved by the Administrative Councils.

However, Oramas clarifies that a fundamental objective is to control all of Havana’s fuel consumption through the cards required for private carriers, one of the few measures that has been saved from the current restructuring of the controls.

“Another of the assumptions is that the supply and demand pricing of the basic services, like that provided by these private carriers, will be totally eliminated in the country,” the official added.

Under the new provisions, requirements will be imposed on licenses for the transportation of passengers in trucks, vans and buses. For example, it will be mandatory for the vehicle to have windows or air conditioning, seats fixed to the floor, good lighting and a communication system between the passenger compartment and the driver.

In order to obtain or update this license, it will be mandatory to open a bank account for collection and payment transactions and sign a contract with Financiera Cimex SA for the purchase of fuel with a magnetic card.

This regular license may be requested in the name of the spouse or a family member as long as it is within the second degree of consanguinity, that is: parents, children, brothers, grandchildren, grandparents; or first degree of affinity: parents-in-law, daughters-in-law and sons-in-law.

These regulations are effective as of January 5 of next year. The holders of the license in the free circulating and routed services are already engaged in the update process to change towards the Regular License, which comes without an additional cost and respects the effective date of the license that is being modified.

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