Sunday 9 May 2021

Goverment tells Uber to stop its operation in Costa Rica

Uber staying strong. "At Uber we have always opted to invest in the country and provide opportunities for Costa Ricans," said the company following the government announcement

In an attempt to calm taxi drivers, the Government Council reiterated on Tuesday its request to the Uber company to stop its transport operation in Costa Rica, until there is a legal framework to regulate it.

The request also applies to other ride app platforms.

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The government message ignited a variety of reactions against it on the social networks where the government’s actions were perceived as contradictory after President Carlos Alvarado himself promised in the electoral campaign that Uber should be regulated.

Specifically, the Governing Council (Cabinet) agreed on Tuesday: “once again urge the Uber company and other companies operating technology platforms to provide public transport service for people, abandon their operation until the revision and/or modernization is defined of the existing legal framework of paid transport of persons”.

The request, for now, satisfied the taxi drivers who had threatened to block roads today. Rubén Vargas, representative of the Union of Costa Rican Taxi Drivers (UTC), confirmed the protests are on hold.

The Minister of Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT), Rodolfo Méndez (left), with the leader of the taxi union, Rubén Vargas, (middle) and Germán Marín, directorof the  Policía de Tránsito (right), on Tuesday. Photo: MOPT

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“Tomorrow everything is in order, there will be nothing,” Vargas said Tuesday after a meeting of less than an hour between several taxi leaders and Germán Marín, director of the Traffic Police, and Rodolfo Méndez, Minister of Public Works and Transportation.

“Transportation services in all its forms are a source of employment and mean a socioeconomic solution for thousands of families. Aware of this and of the fact that new technologies pose challenges to governments, we seek an integrated solution that allows us to solve the situation of taxi drivers in an innovative way for the benefit of users,” Méndez Mata said in a statement.

The official pronouncement of this Tuesday had been agreed at the beginning of July, when the taxi drivers protested with roadblocks and ‘tortugiosmo” that culminated with a late night meeting with Minister Méndez and the government committing to make an official decision within 45 days, while continuing talks.

That deadline expired on August 21 without a specific pronouncement. That day Minister Méndez confirmed that he only met for more than three hours with the representatives of the guilds of the taxi drivers with whom it was agreed to extend the discussion on Uber.

Vargas,  expressed then that they were satisfied with the meeting but insisted that the Government should pronounce itself.

Uber staying strong

For its part, Uber reiterates continuity in the country.

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Under the slogan “nuestro viaje continúa” (our journey continues), the Uber company confirmed the continuity of its transportation service in the country and asked the Government to participate in the discussion aimed at modernizing the legislation.

The company confirmed in an electronic message to its registered users that it operates normally and even called on them to demonstrate in favor of the company.

“Your voice is very important and you have many ways of supporting free mobility: with your family, your friends, on each trip and on your social networks. We remind you that you can continue moving comfortably and safely through the city,” the company urged in its message to its users.

The company’s position came shortly after the government urged it to withdraw from Costa Rica.

Andrés Echandi, manager of Uber for Central America, insisted on presenting his company as a source of income for the families of his collaborators (drivers) “who have found in Uber an option to face the cost of living”.

“If the Government considers that it is important to promote a balanced regulation on the subject, for it to be discussed with all the actors and then promoted, but definitely in the meantime we can not leave Costa Ricans without an option to generate income” he concluded.

“At Uber we have always opted to invest in the country and provide opportunities for Costa Ricans,” said Echandi.

For Echandi, these people can not stop generating income waiting for a regulation to be issued.

Uber has been operating in Costa Rica for three years. It currently has some 22,000 drivers and 783,000 users. For half of the drivers, Uber is their main source of income.



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