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Mexico City cabbies block traffic to protest rideshare apps

MARÍA VERZA
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Mexico Taxi Protest

Hundreds of taxi drivers gather round the Angel of Independence monument to protest ride apps, in Mexico City, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. The protesters want the apps banned, arguing that the apps are unfair competition because those drivers are more loosely regulated and don't have to pay licensing fees. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Thousands of medallion taxi drivers parked their pink-and-white cabs to block major Mexico City thoroughfares for hours Monday in protest of ride-hailing apps such as Uber, causing long delays for motorists.

Taxi drivers say they have to comply with requirements for licensing, tax, inspection and tests that the ride-hailing apps don't have to endure, and they are demanding an even playing field.

"We want the laws enforced. We are not against anybody," said Eduardo Elizalde, a veteran with 40 years behind the wheel of Mexico City cabs. "But just as we have to pay taxes and pass exams, so should the apps."

The city of 9 million people has about 140,000 medallion cabs, and probably that many ride-hailing cars and gypsy cabs. New entrants like the Chinese app Didi have swelled the ranks.

Deputy Interior Secretary Ricardo Peralta and Ángel Morales of a national taxi group said at a news conference that agreements had been reached for the government to consult with experts on the legality of the apps and for cab drivers to adopt new technology and refrain from blocking roads in the future.

Drivers vowed to improve and modernize their service. Beyond the convenience of being able to hail rides with their phones, many users say the apps are a safer, more pleasant alternative to street cabs.

Peralta apologized to inconvenienced residents and said that "desperation clouded our judgment" after three months of talks failed to yield progress.

By evening, hundreds of cars that had surrounded the capital's Independence Monument since the morning melted away into the city.

Authorities and drivers will continue talks next week, Peralta said.

"If the government does not come through, we will return to the streets," said Roberto Verónica, a driver from the nearby city of Toluca in the State of Mexico.