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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – While almost three thousand demonstrated outside Brazil’s Congress on Tuesday the country’s Senate approved a bill which regulates the use of transportation applications in the country. Senators, however, removed two controversial items in the Chamber-approved bill, easing some of the concerns by Uber and Cabify drivers.

Brazil, Brasilia,Senators vote on controversial cab-hailing app on Tuesday,
Senators vote on controversial cab-hailing app on Tuesday, photo by Roque de Sa/Agencia Senado.

“On Tuesday (October 31st), the Federal Senate heard the voices of the more than 500,000 partner drivers and Uber’s 17 million users in Brazil and removed from the text of PLC 28/2017 many of the unnecessary bureaucracies,” stated Uber communication manager for Brazil, Pedro Prochno.

According to the bill approved by the Senate, transportation services such as Uber and Cabify do not need to use red (service) vehicle plates on their cars and drivers do not have to own the cars they are using.

And while lawmakers discussed the bill, more than three thousand taxi drivers and transport-application drivers gathered on the lawn of the Congress. As tensions increased police officers resorted to pepper spray to keep the two groups apart. Inside the building, Uber executive, Fabio Saba was slapped by a demonstrator as he was giving an interview to local media.

The controversial bill also brought Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, to Brazil to meet with government officials. According to Khosrowshahi the original bill would his business model unfeasible in the country.

“We are not against regulation. Regulating services like Uber is entirely appropriate. But these rules should be thought about looking to the future, not to the past,” Khosrowshahi told local newspaper Estado de S. Paulo.

According to the executive, the bill approved by the Lower House had potential to restrict significantly the number of drivers in the country. “There are ways for regulation to work for both Uber and the government,” added Khosrowshahi.

Brazil, Brasilia,Taxi drivers line up in front of Brazil's Congress on Tuesday to support bill to regulate companies such as Uber and Cabify,
Taxi drivers line up in front of Brazil’s Congress on Tuesday to support bill to regulate companies such as Uber and Cabify, photo by Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil.

The other big app-transportation company in Brazil, Cabify, also hailed the Senate decision as a victory. According to the Spanish-based company, more than 800,000 signatures opposing the bill were given to senators before the vote.

For registered taxi drivers, however, the lack of regulations for these app services threatens both their livelihoods and passenger safety. “Regulating the private car service is not prohibiting anything! It is to give equal conditions of competition,” said ABRATAXI (Association of Taxi Drivers of Brazil) in their social media page.

Since the bill was amended in the Upper House, it will now go back to the Chamber of Deputies to be once again discussed and approved. If the Chamber gives the green light, the bill will go to President Temer to be sanctioned.

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