COLOMBIANS BACK UBER Uber has found a large following in Colombia where people are fighting for its service survive to avoid violent yellow-cab drivers - and being robbed. Image: Shutterstock
BOGOTA, Colombia - Furious taxi drivers and loyal users of Uber are butting heads over Colombia'sban on the ride-sharing company. This time Colombians are putting up a bigger fight to keep the service rather than have it banned - unlike in other countries.
Amid threats of a strike by yellow-taxi drivers who consider cars affiliated with Uber to be pirates, the Transportation Ministry this week declared illegal all smartphone applications that facilitate the hiring of cabs not registered for that purpose.
Taxi drivers fearing a loss of business to Uber's credit card-only smarter service have challenged the company on grounds similar to those used in many of the 50 countries around the world where it operates.
However, in crime-ridden Colombia, the service has won a large following its so-far year of operation because ordinary people fear being ripped off by doctored meters or even assault by taxi drivers with a reputation for violence.
What's known as a "millionaire's ride" - assailants in cahoots with cabbies jump into a car and force passengers at gunpoint to empty their bank accounts at cash machines - are a top public safety concern. Last year a US Drug Enforcement Administration official was killed in a botched robbery attempt; his assailants, seven taxi drivers, were extradited to the United States.
Uber user Andrea Zapata told Associated Press on Wednesday (Nov 26 2014): "When I use Uber I don't feel like I'm being robbed. It's frustrating that they're not allowed to operate."
Cabbies say drivers of the increasingly ubiquitous white SUVs and sedans affiliated to Uber don't face the same restrictions or pay the high fees and taxes required of yellow cabs. Licences for such cars are supposed to be reserved for drivers servicing hotels, schools and other designated clients.
Jose Rodriguez, president of the National Transporters' Association, said: "Using this service is the same as buying smuggled goods."
Paula Blanco, a spokesperson for the San Francisco-based Uber, told Blu radio the company hadn't been notified of any ban and was operating normally while being committed to resolving regulatory concerns in Colombia.
She insisted that the company, as a provider of technology, was not violating any laws and said its affiliated drivers are registered under Colombian norms.