In Buenos Aires things may get more difficult for Uber drivers, or for passengers who decide to use the service, for whatever reason. There have already been a number of violent episodes where the mafias known as “Uber Hunters” damage a vehicle or hurt a passenger who uses the popular ride-sharing application.
The taxi union is angry. Their powerful lobby has been able to exert great political influence, but they have lost the latest battle in the justice system. Although the Buenos Aires legislature approved a tough law that imposes very steep fines on the drivers, the justice system has ruled that it is extremely difficult to enforce and apply these draconian fines. The deputies from all the parties (macristas, socialists, kirchnerists) had approved new regulations allowing the police to confiscate the driver’s license of the driver, who in addition would have to pay a fine of thousands of Argentine pesos. But when the first legal disputes began, the pathetic and shameful legislative initiative was defeated. It was then that several groups of taxi drivers organized themselves, in the hopes of intimidating Uber drivers and passengers, operating as a virtual paramilitary force.
The “Uber hunters” are organized in several ways. They have lists of license plates of suspected Uber drivers, they look for suspicious passengers in public places, and they even impersonate Uber users, and then request a car in order to attack it at the time of arrival.
All this does makes such groups unpopular with Buenos Aires citizens, who completely repudiate these mafia-style actions and increases the number of clients of the application on a daily basis. It seems that outrage can sometimes be a greater motivating factor than fear.
Last weekend, a young woman documented a new attack, when she was about to get into an Uber vehicle. According to the victim, the car was not an Uber, but the private car of his partner. The truth is that, whatever it was, nothing justifies the aggression and arrogance of the people who beat her and threw her cell phone on the floor.
In the film you can see how the criminals approach the car as well as the woman, with an attitude that even the authorities should not have. When the person warns him that he was filming him and he would call the police, the bully directly throws the phone to the floor. However, the images were recorded and transmitted by numerous media outlets.
Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta should accept that the citizens of Buenos Aires have already accepted the application and that thousands of people want to work for Uber. To continue to stifle competition is pointless at this point. Now, violent elements in the taxi drivers unions have tried to take the reins, taking to the street with the intent of damaging private property, trying to make absurd “citizen arrests.”
If this wave of violence is not stopped with the full weight of the law and with the necessary political will, at any moment Buenos Aires will regret much more than just a cracked windshield or a broken nose. And the municipal government will be responsible for a great tragedy, which I hope will not happen.
The popularity and longevity of Uber has long been established; the city government of Buenos Aires will not succeed in its quest to ban the popular ride-sharing app, and they should not bow to the will of the taxi drivers unions, no matter how politically powerful they may be. Portenos have spoken: they want competition, and they want Uber.