Thousands of red, public taxis from all
over the country blocked Avenida 1 and 2 in
downtown San José Tuesday, urging law-makers
in the nearby Legislative Assembly building to discuss a bill that would make it illegal for their private counterparts, known as porteadores, to operate.
Licensed taxi drivers say Article 323 of Costa Rica’s Commercial Code – which states that private transport providers can pick up passengers from a home or business, but not from the street – creates problems. Many informal cabbies do not abide by these terms, say public taxi drivers, and instead act as “pirates” who compete with licensed taxis on the street and hinder passengers’ safety by failing to adhere to regulations.
Taxis, some with their windshields spray-painted with messages like “out with the porteador,” remained parked downtown all day Tuesday, creating gridlock on surrounding streets.
“It’s unjust that we have to pay for inspections, insurance, taxes and a special license and they can work without them,” said Demetri González, a taxi driver from Heredia, north of San José.
That same day, legislators discussed a motion for the bill, supported by Social Christian Unity Party legislator Ricardo Toledo, to bypass the customary review by a committee and go directly to the assembly floor. Legislators were expected to vote on the motion yesterday. If approved, the bill would be discussed on the assembly floor Monday.
On Feb. 28, porteadores employed the same strategy of blocking streets in front of the Legislative Assembly to protest the bill that would make them illegal, insisting that they have the right to work alongside public taxis (TT,March 3).
The Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) is another concern for taxi drivers, said Edgar Castro, president of the National Federation of Taxi Companies (FENACOOTAXI), one of five representatives who talked with legislators about the bill.
CAFTA would open up the taxi market to private companies and eventually make public taxis obsolete, Castro alleged. However, former Foreign Trade Minister Alberto Trejos, who helped negotiate the trade pact, said CAFTA only concerns trade, not internal laws, and therefore would not affect the taxi industry.
An increase in official taxi rates, published in the official government daily La Gaceta, went into effect yesterday. The cost of the first kilometer increased from ¢330 to ¢350, and each additional kilometer from ¢300 to ¢320.