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Violence against Uber Drivers Ramps up in Puerto Rico

By on July 13, 2016

SAN JUAN—Taxi drivers in Puerto Rico have reportedly engaged in violent acts against Uber drivers and vehicles in the island capital during the past 48 hours, ever since the multi-national ride-hailing company began local operations Monday morning.

(AP / Eric Risberg)

(AP / Eric Risberg)

Allegations regarding several such incidents have spread on social media, including one instance in which someone dropped a cement block onto an Uber vehicle from a bridge in San Juan.

Puerto Rico Police superintendent José Caldero said in a radio interview that the department is investigating the aforementioned incident, as well as various others in which non-Uber drivers and vehicles have also been attacked.

“We have a complaint of a driver who had her windshield broken when she went to pick up a friend (at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Carolina),” Caldero said, adding that vigilance at the airport was reinforced following the incident.

A post by Javier Bellido, a local professional who hailed a ride on an Uber vehicle only to get into a confrontation with alleged taxi drivers, turned viral on Tuesday night, generating more than 11,000 shares on Facebook by Wednesday morning.

In the post, Bellido gave an account in which several individuals confronted the Uber driver and attempted to block the vehicle’s exit from the vicinity of the Caribe Hilton Hotel, in San Juan’s Puerta de Tierra district.

Several pictures accompanying the write-up show an alleged female “ringleader” of the group, as well as the impact marks that a thrown rock had inflicted on the side of the Uber vehicle.

A video showing several people attempting to block a main thoroughfare in the Condado area of San Juan has also made the rounds in social media.

The Public Service Commission (CSP by its Spanish acronym), a local government agency that has opposed the entrance of Uber to the island in recent days, decried the acts of violence, with CSP President Omar Negrón calling upon the Puerto Rico Tourism Company to assume jurisdiction in the incidents.

On Monday afternoon, the CSP filed a request for injunction in the Court of First Instance of San Juan for the company to refrain from “operating illegally” on the island.

“At the CSP, we aren’t opposed to technology or innovation. We are aware that Uber’s service is necessary and will contribute to the economic development of the island,” CSP President Omar Negrón said.

However, he added that Puerto Rico “is a jurisdiction governed by the rule of law and order, and we must all comply with the established parameters. Uber…cannot be the exception.”

Almost immediately after CSP filed its legal motion, Uber did the same against the government agency. However, Judge Angel Pagán denied Uber’s request and cited both parties for a hearing on July 14

Despite the violent incidents and legal controversies, Uber’s launch on the island has proved successful by most accounts. An Uber rep said Tuesday that on its first day of operations in San Juan, more than 10,000 people downloaded its mobile application and 1,500 drivers joined the service, adding to the 8,000 that had already registered. Some 2,900 trips have also been carried out during this period, the company added.

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