Rico’s TICO BULL (OPINION) – Costa Rica can take a page from Spain’s playbook as both countries struggle with the legitimacy of Uber (and Cabify in the case of Spain) against the taxi drivers.
It wasn’t too long after Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado taking office did he face the ‘red force’ and their demands to do away with Uber in the country.
Following a day of protests, tortuguismo and five hours of ‘intense’ negotiations, the taxi drivers and the government on July 4 came to an agreement, putting and end to the protests. The agreement compromises the Alvarado administration to respond within a maximum of 45 calendar days, August 17 by my count.
In the ‘el viejo continente’ (the old continent), as Spain is often referred to in Costa Rica, Spanish taxi unions are furious at the competition posed by Uber, and have taken to assaulting Uber drivers, destroying their vehicles, and harassing their passengers.
Sounds familiar, right?
David Unsworth, writing in the Panampost: It is High Time for the Spanish Government to Defend Uber. The Spanish government facing a clear choice: they can use their authority to protect the right of Uber and Cabify to operate as legitimate business concerns, and they can use their authority to protect Uber and Cabify drivers’ and passengers’ right to liberty and property. On the contrary, they can cave to the demands of the taxi unions, and take away the right of the Spanish people to make their own decisions about transportation.
In Spain, like in Costa Rica, for decades, taxi unions existed as a monopoly. With the rise of the internet, smartphones, and software applications, new competition emerged that began to challenge the taxi industry.
Again, in Spain, like in Costa Rica, tired of decades of poor service, rising prices, dangerous driving, rude and insolent drivers, and frequent overcharging and cheating of customers, in particular foreigners (tourists), the people spoke loudly and clearly: companies like Uber took off, providing consumers with affordable, safe, and reliable transportation, the market rejecting taxis and endorsing ride-sharing applications in a big way.
In Costa Rica Uber has grown to some 22,000 drivers in only three years of operation in the country.
Around the globe, individual cities or countries can temporarily restrict it, ban it, harass it, or threaten it, but Uber is too big, too powerful, too loved by consumers to be stopped. It is not going away. At least not in Costa Rica.
The taxi drivers in Spain and Costa Rica have done everything in their power to shut down Uber. Enraged at facing competition and declining ridership, taxi drivers have taken to assaulting Uber drivers and passengers and destroying private property.
In Costa Rica, taxi drivers have a friend in the Policia de Transito (traffic police), cracking down on Uber even while the Central Government considers the issue of Uber’s legitimacy in the country.
The typical convoluted thinking of those who-who oppose ride-sharing apps, and support taxi unions: ride-sharing companies are vultures, taking advantage of others, while taxi unions are heroically defending the little guy.
The truth is to the contrary, the “little guy”: working class and middle-class greatly benefit from the services provided by Uber, both from a customer point of view and drivers who for many – 10,000 in Costa Rica – is the only source of income.
Unsworth writes: Virtually everyone (who has not been living in a cave for the past decade) has seen how wonderful ride-sharing services are. And outside of North Korea or Syria, such services are only going to increase and expand.
It is high time for the Costa Rican government to take a clear and firm stand against the aggression of the taxi drivers and their unions. It is also high time for the government to guarantee legislation that explicitly legalizes free-market competition in the transportation sector, and no longer confers special monopoly privileges upon the taxi sector.
Uber and other ride-sharing apps are here to stay!