Cuba’s Taxi Drivers Will Remain Idle if Their Demands Are Not Met

Two woman get in a shared-taxi in Havana; the vehicles are known as almendrónes, after the “almond-shape” of the classic American cars generally used in this fixed-route service.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 February 2020 — The Cuban Association of Autonomous Carriers (ACTA) in Havana, Mayabeque and Artemis provinces, released a document on Thursdays with five demands of the Government which, if not satisfied, will lead them to maintain the work stoppage that began several days ago, after new regulations governing the sector went into effect.

The demands are: freedom of movement is authorized for private taxi drivers; the approval of a single passenger license; permission to work throughout the Island, including tourist areas; the ability to buy fuel based on consumption; and the end of ’capped’ fare prices.

Esteban Hernández González, coordinator for the western region of the Self-Employed Coalition of Cuba, explained to Radio Martí that between 70% and 80% of drivers are supporting the strike to try to get the government to negotiate. “So far there has been no response to the demands,” he said.

In the interview, Hernández added that private carriers move around 80% of passengers, which encourages them to think they will be heard. “The Ministry of Transportation has no capacity [to carry that number]. There is no equipment, no means,” he confirms.

However, he also admits that his associates cannot remain unemployed for much longer and are considering other forms of follow-up, such as working on alternate days.

On February 1, new measures for private transport entered into force, including those affecting rates. The boteros, as taxi drivers are called — the word means “boatmen” — should charge a maximum of 10 CUP per passenger in vehicles with up to 14 seats, and 5 CUP per passengers in trucks and vans converted for passenger use.

Hernández explained that the authorities, in any case, are not strictly applying the regulations. “The position of the authorities has been to let it go: there are practically no inspectors on the streets today and the police are not stopping the cars, as they did at the beginning, because they know that the situation is beyond their control,” he says.

In recent years, the Government has tried to impose distinct regulations on private passenger transport, but the amount of changes in the regulation suggests that they have not yet found a working formula.

The problems of public transport in Cuba, very specifically in the capital, where the concentration of residents is very high, make it impossible to move the population without resorting to private transport, either through state taxis or the private boteros. But the former, by themselves, are also insufficient, which ups the negotiating capacity for private parties.

One of the most notable stoppages of private transport in recent years in Cuba began on December 7, 2018, when for 48 hours the most populous city in the country was the scene of what was popularly known as El Trancón (The Great Traffic Jam). The protest was trying to reverse a package of regulations that imposed strict controls on the sector and although the measures were finally approved in part, the authorities delayed or canceled others.

See also: Set of related articles.


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