Uber taxis and their drivers were attacked with clubs and rocks as demonstrators demanded an end of app-based cab services during protests in Mexico City.
Licensed taxi drivers took to the streets at the city’s airport on Tuesday to raise awareness of the perceived unfair advantage enjoyed by smart-phone based cab services.
As firecrackers were set off, rocks hurled, car doors kicked in, and eggs and flour thrown inside the windows of Uber’s cabs, protesters carried signs branding their rivals “criminals” and criticising the city’s mayor for letting them operate.
Some drivers were struck and up to 12 cars were damaged in the attack, but there were no reports of serious injuries.
In May, hundreds of taxi drivers marched through Mexico City, demanding Uber be banned, and parked their cabs in the middle of the streets.
A month ago, similar protests also broke out across France.
Although he condemned the actions of rioting taxi drivers as “inexcusable”, President Francois Hollande said then that Uber was an example of “unfair competition” and called for its dissolution.
The company condemned this week’s protest in Mexico City as “completely unacceptable”.
Earlier this month, the city became the first in Latin America to introduce official regulations for smartphone-based ride apps such as Uber.
Under the regulations, companies are required to pay 1.5 per cent of their fares to fund transport improvements, have to register and submit their drivers to annual inspections, and are banned from accepting cash or establishing the equivalent of taxi stands.
But the city’s cabbies have questioned whether Uber drivers have broken the latter rule by parking outside the airport.
Uber is increasingly popular among middle- and upper-class Mexicans, which is considered to be a safer, more reliable, convenient and cost-competitive alternative to street cabs.
In a statement, the company said: “What happened is a very grave attack on everyone's freedom and right to make a living in a dignified manner.
“Incidents like this are completely unacceptable, and we trust that authorities will act so that justice is done.”
It said the company's drivers are not allowed to wait on airport grounds and instead stay in the surrounding streets until customers who have summoned rides are in a place where they can be picked up.
Leaders of the Organized Taxi Drivers of Mexico City union said they were not involved in the “regrettable” incident.
They pledged to pursue only legal avenues of protest and said the attack was carried out by people fed-up with Uber drivers parking in their neighbourhood for airport pick-ups.
“They are decisions that the neighbours of the area made, but we have nothing to do with it,” union spokesman Juan Carlos Rovira said.
“We say so categorically.”
The protesters said they would continue to push for the city’s newly-introduced regulations to be repealed or modified until they felt there was a genuine level playing field.
Union official Ignacio Rodriguez said: “These transnational applications are infiltrating different countries as an economic parasite, endangering the livelihood of thousands of taxi drivers and their families and devouring the market for the legally established service.”
Francisco Rodriguez Esquivel, a 61-year-old cab driver said he was not surprised by the protest due to the frustration felt by licensed taxi drivers.
“People start to get desperate because these companies continue to work and are probably even laughing at us,” he said.
“The struggle continues, and it is going to continue until this gets fixed.”
Additional reporting by APReuse content