SAN JUAN – Traffic chaos prevailed in San Juan on Tuesday as taxi drivers and truckers protested the arrival in Puerto Rico of Uber, the private ride-hailing service, which links passengers and drivers via a mobile application.
On Tuesday morning it was difficult to find taxis on the capital streets, while some tourist excursions had to be cancelled when drivers with certain tourist operators refused to work.
In addition, traffic was a nightmare because protesters parked big trucks – or slowly drove them around – at various spots downtown.
The demonstrators are demanding that Uber drivers pay the same administrative fees that they must shell out and subject themselves to the same checks and operating requirements.
Their main fear is that their business will be hurt, the protesters said, given that it’s already been badly damaged by the island’s decade-long recession.
Puerto Rican Taxi Drivers Federation chief Juan de Leon told EFE in a recent interview that about 100,000 people, including direct and indirect workers, will lose their jobs if Uber and similar services are allowed to become established on the island.
Public transport is nonexistent in some parts of Puerto Rico and inefficient in others, and thus taxis and tourist transport vehicles are sometimes among the very few transportation options apart from private vehicles.
The California-based firm is already operating in Puerto Rico, having received legislative approval to do so, and it has already begun recruiting drivers.
In early May, key Puerto Rican business and sociocultural leaders expressed their support for Uber, claiming that it will spur the local economy and tourism, the latter a sector already seriously affected by fear of the Zika virus.