Uber vs. Cabbies: A Battle for the Streets in Cancun, Mexico

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico has issued a security advisory warning American citizens of the potential dangers they may face due to the ongoing conflicts between traditional taxi drivers and ride-hailing services like Uber and Cabify in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Uber vs. Cabbies: A Battle for the Streets in Cancun, Mexico
Tourists are forced to move by their own means due to the cab drivers' blockade in Cancun's Hotel Zone. Credit: Novedades de Quintana Roo

The U.S. Embassy put out a security advisory because taxi drivers in Quintana Roo were being rude and making threats because they didn't like the ride-hailing service Uber.

Although the use of app-based transportation services, such as Uber and Cabify, is available in many Mexican cities and often offers a safe alternative to cabs, conflicts between these services and cab unions have turned violent at times, resulting in injuries to U.S. citizens. This advisory, which was posted on the embassy's website and shared on its social media, warns U.S. citizens about this.

As such, they advise remembering that there is some risk at all popular tourist sites and that violent crime, including murder, kidnapping, and assaults, is commonplace in Mexico.

"Review your personal security plans; be aware of your surroundings; keep a low profile; monitor local news; and call 911 in Mexico for immediate assistance," adds this publication.

So far, only the U.S. Embassy has issued this security warning. The State Department updates the alert level, formerly known as "warning," and continues to keep Quintana Roo at level 2.

Cancun cab drivers block both exit and entrance lanes to the hotel zone, causing tourists to move by their own means.

Cab drivers block the entrance and exit of Cancun's hotel zone

Cancun cab drivers block the entrance and exit in Cancun's hotel zone, a demonstration that is part of the recent violent acts against drivers of the Uber platform. First reports said that taxi drivers gathered between kilometers 0 and 28 on Kukulcan Boulevard just before 1 p.m.

The blockade has already hurt its first victims: dozens of tourists had to get out of their cars and walk to their hotels or find another way to get to the airport. Due to the cab drivers' blockade in Cancun's Hotel Zone, tourists must move by their own means.

The Secretary of the City Council, Jorge Aguilar Osorio, called for dialogue to avoid damaging Cancun's image. The official promised that the city government would not do anything to "balance the forces" with the cab drivers. He said that they would always try to find a solution through mediation and avoid using public force until the very end.

At around 2:00 p.m., elements of the National Guard and riot police arrived at the site and warned the cab drivers that they would have 15 minutes to withdraw or that public force would be used. On the other hand, citizens who were forced to get out of their vehicles rejected the cab drivers' blockade with shouts and insults.

Some of the complainants made reference to the well-known phrases of the cab drivers, who on many occasions refuse to take passengers, stating that "they are not going there." In the middle of the insults, some people even tried to move one of the taxis, which made the drivers react, but it hasn't gone any further than insults so far.

A little less than an hour later, in the presence of law enforcement and the general rejection of the population, the cab drivers withdrew the blockade, freeing both lanes of Cancun's hotel zone. Authorities told the public through social networks that they would keep security forces there to keep traffic under control.

The cab drivers' union dissociates itself from the blockade in the hotel zone. The "Andres Quintana Roo" cab drivers union's spokesman, Luis Mis, stated that the union dissociates itself from the blockade and affirms that a group of non-conformists, not the union, was responsible for organizing it.

Authorities from the three levels of government released the closed lanes on Kukulcan Blvd. Police presence is maintained in the area to maintain order in vehicular flow.

What happens between cab drivers and Uber operators in Cancun?

The judges of the Judiciary of the Federation in Cancun, Quintana Roo, decided last week to let the private transportation app Uber into the state. Since then, there have been protests and violent attacks on both Uber operators and users.

The app was allowed to start working again in the state because it was argued that since it was a private transportation service, it couldn't be taxed and regulated like taxis, which are part of the public transportation system. It also helped that Quintana Roo's transportation laws were found to be unconstitutional.

After the judges ruled in favor of Uber, hundreds of drivers and union leaders protested outside the Judiciary and said they would go to court to overturn the decision, according to Jonathan Pineda Castro, the leader of Taxistas de Quintana Roo (Taxi Drivers of Quintana Roo).

Cab drivers intimidate Uber operators and users

Since then, several videos have gone viral on social media showing "ruleteros" being violent toward operators and users of the platform. For example, in one of these videos, several cab drivers can be seen blocking the way of an U-Bahn vehicle, saying that it is illegal.

In the same video, the police officers who came to the scene try to explain that the authorities, not them, should decide if the platform is legal. They even warn them that they could be arrested for disturbing public order.

A more violent case occurred after a user asked for his transport application and a group of five taxi drivers did not allow him to board the unit operated by a woman who had been verbally assaulted. The victim was beaten until the tourist police came to his aid, and again, everything was recorded in a video posted on social networks. Two of the aggressors were arrested and referred to the police for "administrative offenses."

This attack happened just minutes after the Andrés Quintana Roo union released a statement saying that it was okay to be violent toward a Russian family who was lowered from an Uber unit by 10 cab drivers. The document says that "this reaction was to be expected."

@soyguselcancunence Hasta cuando #imoveqroo #cancunmexico #fyp #parati #viral #uber #turistas ♬ sonido original - Soy Gus

Call for a "Day Without Cabs" mobilization

On the eve, the citizens of Cancun have begun a call for a day without cabs: "Enough of the abuses; if you want us to take cabs, improve your service, train your drivers, do not abuse the fare, and always take care of the passengers," they wrote. The citizens' protest is planned for January 27.

Rodrigo Alcázar Urrutia, the head of the Institute of Mobility of Quintana Roo (Imoveqroo), said that Uber can't work in the state until the law that was ruled unconstitutional is changed. This would stop the violent attacks that have been reported.

The official said that the State Attorney General's Office, not the Imoveqroo, has the power to prosecute this kind of crime. He did say, however, that cab drivers do not have the power to arrest Uber's operating partners.