ASUNCION – Hundreds of taxi drivers suspended their service this Tuesday to again drive through the streets of Asuncion with a long caravan of cabs in a demonstration calling for the end of ride-hailing services like Uber and Muv.
The “yellow swarm” began parading Tuesday morning along the busiest thoroughfares of the Paraguayan capital, honking their horns and warning citizens about the loss of jobs threatened by the arrival of new companies in the sector.
The downtown taxi stands, which in the early hours are always lined up with cabs, started the day basically vacant, with only a few drivers refusing to join the strike.
The traditional yellow cabs formed a line several kilometers (miles) long that set out from five different points in the capital and came together at Asuncion city hall, where union leaders met with Mayor Mario Ferreiro.
At the doors of the building, the drivers held up signs saying that companies like Uber don’t pay taxes in Uruguay.
“To what country does your 25 percent of every ride go?” said one of the taxi drivers’ signs. “I, taxi driver, with my work I pay VAT (value added tax) to the government, I provide my family with food and schooling, I pay my taxes, to my municipality, etc.”
Taxi drivers have organized several protests since Uber started operating in Paraguay last December.
Among the measures being considered by the cabbies’ association to ease the effects of their competitor’s arrival is a request that the government pay a public subsidy for taxi drivers and exonerate them from paying VAT.
According to their estimates, companies like Uber could leave 1,500 taxi drivers out of work in the Paraguayan capital, which represents half the number employed nationwide.
Another of the companies being watched by taxi drivers is Muv, a Paraguayan company that has offered a similar ride-hailing service since mid-2017.
“We’re operating legally,” Muv co-founder Ximena Dure told EFE, adding that the company’s mobile app “allows invoices to be issued for every trip” in order to pay 100 percent of the taxes they owe.
The company’s founder complained that “taxi drivers are unwilling to speak with us to reach any kind of agreement,” and noted all the “aggression and verbal threats” its drivers have had to take from the taxicab business in recent months.
Dure said she was in favor of creating a regulatory framework to establish some “rules of the game,” though she said such a ruling would have to be national and not municipal.