Chivis Martinez Borderland Beat TY Gus Bloomberg
Mexico’s militarized police force, already grappling with a surge in drug violence and immigration, has a new mission: to stop people from hailing an Uber at airports.
The Mexican National Guard has been charged with conducting sting operations at the country’s 56 airports to make sure that only taxis with a federal permit are allowed to load passengers, according to a statement by the Ministry. The operation comes after the Ministry met with the nation’s taxi association, and will include government communications and transportation officials.
The Uber crackdown adds to the workload of security forces who already are struggling with rising homicides this year. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has drawn criticism for releasing the son of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman after a gun battle this month, has also assigned the Guard to stop undocumented immigrants along Mexico’s southern border in response to requests from U.S. President Donald Trump.
The Uber announcement triggered an immediate backlash on social media, with people wondering if airport raids are really the best use of the national police force, especially after a recent shootout in Michoacan left 14 state police officers dead, and another in the state of Guerrero left one soldier and 14 civilians dead.
“The use of public force in sting operations at airports would represent a threat to users’ rights to choose their mode of transport,” Uber said in a statement, adding it was willing to engage in negotiations with the government to improve competition in the sector.
In response to the criticism, Deputy Interior Minister Ricardo Peralta said the assignment won’t represent any “special” operations since the restrictions of who can operate in federal areas are already mandated by law. The taxi association said it was surprised to hear Peralta’s comments, which appeared to dial down the tone of the agreement, Reforma newspaper reported, and that they would engage in blockades if it is not honored.
Earlier this month, 4,000 taxi drivers took to Mexico City’s streets, blocking major avenues and access to the capital’s airport to protest against digital ride-hailing platforms like Uber, Didi and Cabify.
In 2016, the country’s antitrust regulator Cofece said taxi services at the Mexico City airport were operating under relative monopolistic practices that were causing inflated prices.