By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Uber services in Brazil continue to draw heated conflict from taxi drivers and Uber motorists themselves. While in Rio, taxi drivers protest against Uber services, in São Paulo Uber motorists themselves protest against a reduction in tariffs by the company.
On Friday, the city of Rio de Janeiro faced a gridlock with hundreds of taxi drivers blocking the city’s main roads to protest against alternative transportation services. Trips which usually take only a few minutes took hours during the morning hours, with taxi cabs blocking major highways going in and out of the city and to the city’s airports.
Initially Uber services were banned in Rio in September of 2015, but the courts overruled the ban in December, and Uber services have been operating in the city ever since.
On Monday, Rio’s Mayor Eduardo Paes told journalists that his administration would not stand for another protest as that seen on Friday. “Everyone has the right to protest, as long as they don’t block the roads,” said Paes threatening to revoke taxi licenses if a similar situation every occurs again.
According to Paes the effect of the protest was negative for taxi drivers, “Instead of the population supporting these taxi drivers, what it [protest] did was to tarnish their reputation and make the population angry at them.”
Brazilian Daniane Ikenami, who works with InterNations – a global network of expatriates – explained why she prefers using Uber, “The first time I used Uber was with a friend who was visiting Rio, one month ago. Although, I already knew about it, I wasn’t sure to give my credit card previously.”
Yet now she is a fan and not likley going to go back to regular taxi service as it is. “After having such nice experience with it, I became an Uber fan. And never took a taxi again for multiple reasons: Uber is cheaper, safer and offers a better service.”
While taxi drivers in Rio protest against losing customers and revenues to Uber motorists, in São Paulo, Uber employees protest against the company’s decision to decrease tariffs by fifteen percent.
Last week dozens met outside the Pacaembu soccer stadium to demonstrate against the company’s latest decision to reduce the tariffs, while, according to protest coordinators, more than 2,000 turned off their telephone app leaving customers without a connection to the service.
The Uber service was also dealt another blow last week, with city officials in Belo Horizonte voting into law a bill that prohibits alternative transportation models such as Uber from operating in the city.
According to the new law all passenger drivers will have 45 days to register with a transport operator and obtain a license to work. Motorists and companies without a registered operating license, such as those working for Uber, will be fined.