Private Taxi Drivers Close Ranks Against Fixed Prices Charged By The
State / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez
Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 12 February 2017 – “Take me, I’ll pay you
double,” implores a woman to a taxi driver on the main route of Prado y
Neptuno. The car is empty, but the driver does not stop to those hailing
his taxi, even while showing money in their hands. Imposed fixed prices
on private transport have unleashed a silent battle on the streets of
Since last Wednesday capital authorities have applied a new scale of
fixed rates on the routes of private taxis, a decision that reinforced
an end to the law of supply and demand, which regulated the private
transport since its authorization in the mid 1990s. Last year the
authorities decreed set fares, but the drivers found a way to get around
them and the state came back with a second round of controls last week.
Private transport drivers reacted by eliminating intermediate stops or
by opting to pick up only passengers going the full route. Despite not
relying on an independent union, they have closed ranks and reduced the
number of clients they transport in order to pressure local authorities
to take a step back.
“It has not been necessary for drivers to agree on taking these measure
because we all know that accepting this means worse measures to come,”
assures Leo Ramírez, one of the private taxis whose route runs between
downtown and the neighborhood La Víbora. Driver of a 1957 Chevrolet,
this man says the government is “waging war” on them.
Like most of his colleagues who transport passengers within the city,
for the past three days Ramírez only accepts riders going the full
route. “Most of the time I ride around with no passengers and I have
lost a lot of money,” he says to 14ymedio. He claims, “if the measure is
not reversed I will turn in my license.”
At the end of 2016, Cuba had more than 535,000 private or non-state
workers, the largest figure recorded since 2010, according to data from
the Ministry of Work and Social Security (MTSS). Of these, about 54,350
work in the transport of cargo and passengers and are popularly know as
The situation has put the mobility of Havana in check, a city with over
2 million people and a public transport system facing a deficit of vehicles.
In July 2016, the Council of Provincial Administration published
Agreement 185, setting maximum fares for the routes of the popular
almendrones*, or private taxis. At that time, established rates were for
the most important routes, but the drivers resorted to breaking the
trips into segments and charging per segment.
Tatiana Viera, vice-president of the Council, explained on national
television that behind that decision was “a series of violations that
occurred between the months of September and October.” Consequently, “in
order to continue to protect the public,” they decided on the new
“measures for shorter trips.”
The official explains that private taxis transport workers, students and
even “teachers, who with their salary and hard work cannot afford
transportation at those prices.” Viera pointed out that “it is our state
and moral duty to continue protecting these customers,” even though she
classified the almendrones as “complementary transport.”
“The problem is not prices, but wages,” says Yampier, a taxi driver on
the route from the area of the Capitol to the municipality of Marianao.
According to this self-employed driver, “our cars are always full, which
means there are people who can afford our prices.” However, he considers
that presently, they are all affected by the new measures.
A retiree who tried to take a taxi this Saturday to Santiago de la Vegas
from El Curita park, showed more optimism. “There was no one who could
pay those prices, which makes me glad the State intervened,” she
commented to 14ymedio. She went outside with the newspaper stating the
new rates to “show (the drivers) if they tried to take advantage of her.”
The sanctions for those who do not conform to the new rates range from a
fine to the confiscation of the vehicle. “Our inspectors are already on
the streets” dressed in “blue jackets,” warns Viera and adds, “They are
accompanied by the National Revolutionary Police (PNR).”
Carlos Manuel, known as the Mule, is self-employed in construction and
lives in the Martí neighborhood. Every day he takes at least two private
taxis to get to the house where he is building a bathroom and a kitchen.
“When I heard the news I felt happy because I was going to pay half of
what I was paying last Thursday,” he commented to this newspaper.
However, as the days pass, the Mule explains that these new measures
have actually “affected me a lot.” Now, “I have to go to where the route
starts to hop on a taxi,” he retells. So, “I pay more because I have to
go on a longer route now.”
This construction worker is also concerned that “this type of decision
by the State will trickle down into other professions.” In his case, he
is afraid that “one day they might announce fixed rates for the
placement of a square meter of tiles or the installation of sanitary
fixtures,” a situation which he would be “deeply affected” by.
*Translator’s note: “Almendrones” means “almonds” – from the shape of
the classic American cars often used to provide this service.
Translated by Chavely Garcia.
Source: Private Taxi Drivers Close Ranks Against Fixed Prices Charged By
The State / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez – Translating Cuba –