14ymedio, Havana, 27 February 2017 — Residents of Havana woke up on Monday morning to a strong police deployment, motivated by the announcement of a strike by private taxi drivers. In response to a question from 14ymedio, a uniformed officer said that it was “an operation due to the overcharging by the taxi drivers.”
“As of Monday, 27 February, we drivers all over Cuba are going to strike. We will simply stay home and not wok on those days,” said a text that circulated several days earlier on the alternative media. However, many drivers were unaware of the initiative or declined to participate,” according to what 14ymedio was able to confirm.
The drivers’ discontent has been growing since the beginning of this month when the authorities of the capital set fixed rates for the portions of the routes of private taxi drivers. This decision has put an end to the law of supply and demand that regulated the private transportation of passengers for more than two decades.
“They are afraid that we will go to the Plaza of the Revolution like the pedicab drivers did last year,” a driver who preferred anonymity and decided not to work on Monday told 14ymedio. “I’m going to stay home all week, even if I lose money, it’s my right,” he said.
Faced with the pressures of the authorities many drivers have reacted by no longer serving the intermediate stops or selecting only those customers who make the complete route
Others have gone out to drive like any other day. “This ‘ship’ is the food for my family, I can’t give myself the luxury of not working,” explains Reinier, a young driver who works in a car he rents from its owner. For those who work in this way it is more difficult to join in any initiative to stop work or protest.
The passengers are complaining abut the delays. “I spent an hour and couldn’t move from this corner,” said a customer who was at the intersection of Infanta and Neptune waiting for a taxi to go to to Playa. “The transport situation was much worse today,” he added.
Faced with the pressures of the authorities many drivers have reacted by no longer serving the intermediate stops or selecting only those customers who make the complete route. The response of the carriers has been fewer taxis on the streets, a way to pressure the authorities to take a step back.
The call for a strike this Monday circulated anonymously and several drivers expressed to 14ymedio their doubts about the authenticity of the call. Nevertheless, all those consulted were aware of the proposal that was made known in blogs, news sites and television programs that are seen through the illegal antennas.
“We are victims of a daily siege by police agents, state inspectors and other entities,” the text warned. Those calling for a strike are demanding access to a wholesale market (for fuel and other needs), the reduction of taxes, and the right to create an independent trade union.
According to the latest data from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, more than 535,000 people are self-employed, of whom 54,350 are engaged in freight and passenger transport.