Taxi drivers protest against Uber outside TV station in Buenos Aires on October 5
On October 5 unionized taxi drivers reportedly demonstrated outside a TV station in Buenos Aires to protest against the airing of a televised advertising promoting Uber. The crowd blocked the entrance to the building and the adjacent street for three hours during the evening, causing traffic disruptions. Police stood aside without intervening. No acts of vandalism or violence were reported. Reports indicate that the rise of unemployment in the country is leading professionals to sign up as drivers for ride-sharing apps.
The abovementioned incident comes against the backdrop of an uptick in tensions between drivers from regular taxis and ride-sharing apps. Elements with the former groups have organized into vigilante squads of what are locally-known as “Uber hunters” (Caza Ubers), taking part in a series of strikes and violent actions against independent drivers, especially in Buenos Aires. For instance, on September 19 unruly demonstrators stormed a restaurant near the city center and assaulted a guest suspected of working for Uber. Subsequently, on September 26, activists set ablaze five vehicles allegedly belonging to drivers using ride-sharing apps. Uber has thus far reported 750 incidents against their drivers in 2018. While harassment of drivers and users is becoming commonplace, unruly behavior among Uber’s detractors in taxi unions is not likely to diminish. As local authorities remain reluctant to antagonize unions, particularly during times of economic hardship, “Uber hunters” face limited if any legal consequences for their actions, despite mounting criticism due to the escalation of violence in recent weeks.