Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Killings of Community Organizers

Protesters against the community leaders' killings rally in front of Bogotá's planetarium.
In recent months, Colombia has suffered an epidemic of killings of community leaders, which seems to be worsening in recent weeks. 
'Defense of Human Rights.'
I haven't seen evidence of a nationwide conspiracy behind these killings. Rather, perhaps they are a product of social tensions, illegal money and lack of rule of law or government presence in many regions. 

And it all once again highlights a fundamental paradox of Colombia: How can a nation of such nice, friendly people suffer such an undercurrent of violence?

Colombian leaders are vowing to stop the killings. But if they are linked to such fundamental national troubles, then the crisis will be difficult to resolve.

Protest signs on the Plaza Bolivar.

'There will not be enough tombs to silence all of us.'

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Regulating Uber Off The Road

Uber: Going, going, gone?
Uber provides a terrible service in Bogotá!

So terrible, in fact, that many people prefer it over taxis because of Uber's nicer cars, friendlier drivers, greater control and more convenience. So terrible, that taxi drivers and companies are fearing for their carreers.

Is the solution to improve taxi service? Perhaps not. Instead, the government - undoubtedly pressured by the traditional taxi industry - is working on a law intended to legislate Uber out of existence.

The proposed law, which has yet to be reviewed, would require drivers from Uber, Cabify and other
Back to the future of old taxis?
such platforms, to drive only black cars with checkered sides. But that's just the beginning. Drivers would also have to have completed a course in the Sena technical school, completed a second course about how to treat customers, and god only knows what else.

All of these unreasonable, unrealistic requirements are for an industry - the gig economy on wheels - which has been operating pretty well on its own.

Anti-Uber marchers compare the
company to a proveer of prostitutes.
In truth, these proposed regulations have almost nothing to do with improving the quality of ride services. Rather, they're intended to destroy such services in order to protect the taxi drivers' vested economic interests.

'Uber out of Colombia.'
An Uber marketing stand.
Taxi drivers and companies unquestionably find themselves in an unenviable and probably unfair situation in the new economy. But the solution isn't to try to halt change - which has brought lots of benefits in the form of convenient transit and extra income for many people. Instead, the answer is to assist the taxi drivers to improve their service and, ultimately, train for jobs with better prospects.

None of which is to say that ride-sharing platforms don't produce negative impacts, particularly by increasing traffic congestion and pollution. But those are not just the fault of Uber, and should be addressed with a traffic congestion charge, pollution sanctions and other measures.

Incidentally, Colombian tourist guides are threatened by simlarly unreasonable ertification requirements designed to create barriers to entry and protect the interests of a small number of guides who were grandfathered into the industry and often do not even speak the languages needed to do the work.

Professional certifications like these are generally required for professions which involve big risks, such as medicine and engineering, or require intense knowledge, such as law. But driving a car? Telling tourists where Bogotá was founded?

These 'training laws' are really disguised barriers to competitors and attempts to monopolize their industries.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours,