Over the past two weeks, tourists in Cancun have reported witnessing their Uber drivers being threatened violently by rival taxi companies at an alarming rate. Violent incidents have occurred three times, with drivers being threatened at knife or gunpoint in these cases. In total, 10 separate cases of physical and verbal abuse have occurred, leaving tourists uneasy about using the popular rideshare app.
The attacks on the Uber drivers were carried out by members of the Andres Quintana Roo Taxi Drivers Union, based in Cancun.
The issue was brought to the attention of Quintana Roo state authorities this Monday. Uber drivers attended a press conference with the Benito Juarez city council and hoteliers to discuss how to better protect drivers and tourists alike.
A partner of Uber, Agueda Esperilla, stated his discomfort at the recent attacks in Cancun:
“As of the second fortnight of September, we were again victims of uniformed crime. The taxi drivers of the Andres Quintana Roo union in the hotel zone again began a campaign of aggression and death threats… they committed the crimes of threats with attempted homicide.”
The union is able to find Uber drivers easily: as soon as one member comes into contact with an Uber driver, an image of the vehicle and license plate is sent to other members, making it easy to threaten several members. This has begun to make tourists feel uneasy, as some union members could target a car transporting tourists to or from hotels.
Those present at the press conference also stated the impact of these recent attacks on tourism. Cancun and the state of Quintana Roo are heavily reliant on tourism for income, meaning any threat to tourists’ safety could have dire implications. Benito Juarez’s council stated that they would act legally against the union to ensure those responsible were prevented from repeating the same act again.
This is not the first time this year that Cancun’s taxi drivers have made the news for negative reasons. In March, several fake taxi drivers arrived at Cancun’s Airport in an attempt to ‘poach’ tourists from verified taxi companies. This endangered tourists and tarnished the reputation of taxi drivers: whilst the rides were advertised as being far cheaper than a regular taxi rate, tourists were more likely to fall prey to petty crime, such as theft or kidnapping.
Taxi drivers are also to blame for up to 80% of all public transit accidents in Cancun – they were found to be responsible for every 7 out of 10 accidents involving cars in the region. In addition to this, accidents involving taxis caused 235 injuries and 1 death over a four-month period this year, tarnishing their reputation even further.
At this time, Uber drivers have requested that the Mexican National Guard provides extra security in and around tourist-populated areas where Uber drivers typically work. This would allow potentially violent situations to be de-escalated more efficiently.
Furthermore, any new case of Uber driver harassment will be presented to representatives of the Hotel Association of Cancun, Puerto Morelos & Isla Mujeres. This method will ensure that preventative measures will be carried out throughout the tourist hotspots to ensure the safety of both Uber drivers and their tourist passengers.
Tourists who witness their Uber driver being verbally or physically threatened are encouraged to report the incident to tourist police or any municipal authority. Whilst the situation is now under close surveillance, the help of tourists is essential to preventing this type of situation from continuing in Cancun or elsewhere in the state of Quintana Roo.
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