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Governor urged to stop Uber operations in Puerto Rico

By on June 7, 2017

On right, the president of the Union of Transportation and Related Branches, Germán Vázquez. (Genesis Ibarra / CB)

SAN JUAN – Tensions flared again Wednesday amid a public hearing to evaluate House Bill 1084 to create the Public Service Commission’s Administrative Transformation Act after representatives from the transportation sector demanded the government impose stricter regulations to allow Uber’s ride-hailing services in Puerto Rico.

During the joint hearing by the Senate Innovation, Telecommunications, Urbanism & Infrastructure Committee, chaired by Miguel Laureano Correa; and the House Government Committee, chaired Jorge Navarro Suárez, deponents argued that the lack of regulations with regards to Uber jeopardizes the jobs of more than 60,000 employees.

Germán Vázquez, president of the of the Transportation and Related Branches Union, effusively requested of the legislators in the Senate’s María Martínez Room to ask Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to “turn off the app” that allows Uber drivers to offer their services in the island’s metropolitan area.

“While you do the work you have to do for the legislation to turn this into law, why don’t you recommend the governor to order the app turned off? Tell the governor those people are [working] illegally, they don’t contribute to the Treasury… Let’s order the app shut down because they are totally illegal,” Vázquez proposed amid murmurs of approval.

Along that line, Edwin Marrero Martínez, spokesman for the United Truckers Front, said that although he favors consolidating the transportation sector under the Public Service Commission (PSC), “if Uber and all other [transportation services] that come are outside the law, they are breaking the law and, therefore, can charge less” than regulated vehicles. 

José Poupal, president of Puerto Rico Tour Operators, Guides and Hikers (Protege by its Spanish acronym), said he doesn’t oppose Uber’s service on the island, but that the lack of regulations regarding the company’s presence in tourism areas affects taxi drivers and chauffeurs who have the permits to work in those areas.

To address the lack of specific measures to regulate the Transportation Network Companies (ERT by its Spanish initials), Poupal, whose organization groups limousines and tourist and regional taxis, suggested having Uber drivers take drug tests, present a police certificate and for the company to make it driver list public, among others.

“Uber argues that it’s not a taxi, it’s not a limo, it’s not a tour  [vehicle], but then Uber wants to pick you up at the airport. […] We must thoroughly investigate a company that tells the country that last year it made a $450 million profit. Where is the contribution? Nobody has asked that of this company,” Poupal said.

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