Tensions between taxi and Uber drivers reached dangerous levels of aggression Friday in Bogotá following a late night incident involving the daughter of the former Vice President.
On Friday, the leader of the city’s taxi driver guild warned that the situation could get much worse if authorities don’t step in.
The 21-year-old daughter of the former Vice President and recent Bogotá mayoral candidate, Francisco Santos, had requested her Uber from the T-Zone district, when it was allegedly attacked by a mob of taxi drivers during a flash “redada” (raid) pre-dawn Friday.
Upon hearing the distress call from Carmen Santos, her obligatory security detail raced to the scene, and according to eyewitnesses, when they arrived, the yellow cab drivers were vandalizing with bricks and stones the vehicle.
According to the former Vice President, Carmen, was held “hostage” in her designated Uber for 40 minutes.
The security detail fled the scene in an official government protection SUV, hitting several cabs, and injuring at least one person. According to the senior politician, the mob went in pursuit of the bodyguards and Carmen Santos.
Francisco Santos, who was not in the country during the incident, remarked that taxi drivers in the city: “have no justification to terrorize people, nor take the law into their hands.”
On Friday morning, taxi guild leader Hugo Ospina disputed Santos’ version of the story in an interview with LA F.m. Radio and criticized the fact that the daughter of a former public official had used Uber, an “illegal service.”
Other sources claim that the vehicle with the former official’s daughter was forced to stop at an official police checkpoint and this provoked the aggression. The Transit Police have denied this version.
But Ospina has revealed a more troubling trend.
“In our guild, we have groups of people who are demobilized from illegal armed groups,” said Ospina during the interview. “These people are arming themselves to assassinate Uber drivers.”
“This, to me, is extremely grave.”
Ospina clarified that he had already alerted authorities including the Attorney General and chief of the National Police.
“We must be careful with this,” he said.
On Friday, online magazine Kien y Ke published audio clips they claim feature a taxi driver contemplating an organized and possibly violent assault on Uber drivers.
“We need to do something like the paramilitaries, something that can bring justice, because the authorities aren’t bringing justice,” said the driver in the clips. “There are people who will do whatever in this country.”
“The people should be afraid.”
It’s not the first time hostility between taxi and Uber drivers has gotten out of hand in Bogotá. Since the ride sharing service first arrived in Colombia’s capital in 2013, various skirmishes have broken out, sometimes turning violent.
In November, President Juan Manuel Santos announced a new classification of “luxury transport” which will allow some taxis to provide a service similar to Uber under government regulation. The regulations won’t go into effect until later this year.
In the meantime, Uber will continue to work with Colombian Congress to define the terms under which the service will be allowed to operate with legal guarantees.