16 December 2006

Pirate cabs on the prowl in Mexico City

Taxi en San Angel

Upon entering a cab early yesterday morning on Calle Homero in Mexico City's swank Polanco district, the driver asked, "Young man, why do you trust me so much?" I pointed to the "L" on his Federal District license plate - which signifies libre, or a taxi not attached to a station. He responded by pointing a laminated credential from the local government with a photo hanging from the rear-view mirror, before adding that many of the taxi licenses are fake. (Some pirates simply use a normal plate instead of one with the letters "L" or "S" and the necessary red trim.)

An estimated 20,000 pirate cabs prowl Mexico City's congested streets. When asked why some many are out there, the cab driver responded, "The government allows it."

Another cab driver in a more expensive sitio taxi (one with a radio and home base) said the pirate taxistas support the PRD party and thus have obtained protection against possible enforcement.

Obviously the licensed taxi drivers object to the pirates due to the extra competition. Tourists might be hesitant as Mexico has been notorious for express kidnappings in which the passenger is escorted to several bank machines and ordered to empty his or her accounts.

But what does this say about the PRD administration in capital? This smacks of the old PRI-style corporatist system that tied unions, businesses, etc. to the once-mighty party in exchange for patronage. It also suggests a lack of respect for the law - something critics of presidential candidate and former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have long alleged the perredista is guilty of.

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