Tensions in prices and services have affected private transportation in Havana after the government approved measures to regulate energy consumption. In early July, the Council of Ministers cut the expenses of the electricity programme and the allocation of fuel to the State’s entities for the second semester. A first reaction was the increase in the prices for the taxis known as “boteros” or “almendrones”.
The private taxi drivers’ price hike was a clear sign that they were supplied by the black market, which is at the same time illegally fed by the distribution of fuel to state-run entities. Compared to this, the prices remained stable in the public gasoline stations, while the drivers openly admitted on TV that the price had gone up for the gasoline and diesel to which they had access.
The market’s reply annoyed many consumers, judging by the feature articles in the press.
The Provincial Transportation Department in Havana immediately notified all the registered private transportation workers and their helpers of the ban on having higher prices than those existing in the market at the close of June of this year, that is to say, before the measures were announced.
The provincial director, José Conesa González, also announced during a press conference that the license to operate of the drivers who violated the rate would be withdrawn, and it could even be definitively cancelled. As a form of control the government proposed a telephone number for the population to report any infractions of what has been established.
In addition to publishing ceiling prices according to those existing at the close of June, government representatives insisted on not accepting a reaction of the transport market contrary to the policy of lowering prices in shop networks, implemented this year with the explicit aim of improving the purchasing power of the Cuban peso.
The vice president of the Provincial Administration Council in charge of supervision and control, Isabel Hamze Ruíz, insisted before the press on the decision of adopting severe measures in the face of any violation. She argued that the conditions have not changed so as to increase the prices for passenger transportation while the prices remain stable in the gas stations and the taxes paid by private workers.
The Provincial Transportation Department in Havana reported on the start of operations by July 18 to detect infringements and said that, as a result, during the first day six transportation operation licenses had been taken away, which would be definitively cancelled. It also reported 12 licenses taken away for other illegal activities.
Some taxi drivers have improvised other alternatives to avoid the restrictions, like offering trips for shorter distances and avoiding making longer trips at the same price. The population’s only option is public transportation on bus and commenting the evolution of the “botero” market in a summer which on its own is already hot. (2016)
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