BUENOS AIRES – About 5,000 taxi drivers gathered in Buenos Aires on Thursday to demand that U.S.-based ride-sharing service Uber be shut down, with trade groups alleging that the alternative transportation company continues operating normally and “making advances” in Argentina.
Despite months of protests by taxi drivers, figures provided to EFE by Uber show that some 550,000 users downloaded the ride-hailing application in Argentina’s capital and about 37,000 people are working as drivers for the San Francisco, California-based online transportation network company.
Taxi industry trade groups contend that despite a legal ban, Uber continues to operate without problems and has expanded into other cities in Argentina, including Rosario, Cordoba and Mendoza.
“The Buenos Aires justice system and government support us and have backed us in the city, but we want the same thing all across Argentina,” National Taxi Owners Federation president Jorge Celia told EFE, adding that the public should avoid using the “illegal” ride-sharing service.
Buenos Aires judicial officials blocked the ride-sharing app in May, but the measure covers only the capital’s territory.
The National Communications Agency, which regulates online services, cannot take action against Uber until a federal judge issues a ruling against the ride-sharing service.
Buenos Aires Transportation Secretary Juan Jose Mendez told media outlets in the capital Thursday that Uber is not complying with the laws in Argentina, a different position than the company has taken in other countries, where it adapted to existing regulations.
“Our protest is pretty simple, nobody says anything and yet Uber keeps making advances” in Argentina, Celia said, adding that ride-sharing services provide unfair competition for taxi drivers who have to pay for a special license to transport people.
Protests were held by taxi drivers in other cities in Argentina on Thursday.
Uber began operating in Argentina on April 12, unleashing a storm of protests by taxi drivers.
Uber, founded in 2009, is a mobile app that enables users to get a ride with a private driver, paying with a credit card for the trip, and offering rates that are usually lower than those of taxi cabs.
The service, which has been controversial in countries like France and Spain, where it was declared illegal, is already available in Latin America, operating in cities in Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and Chile.