Taxi drivers from across Spain march in Madrid against liberalization plans

Sector says “unfair competition” from likes of Uber will mean ruin for 100,000 families

Video: Taxi drivers and their families protest in Madrid on Thursday.Video: Javier Lizón (EFE) / EFE

Taxi drivers from all over Spain arrived in Madrid on Thursday to protest plans for liberalizing the passenger transportation sector.

Around 2,000 drivers and their relatives – 5,000 people in total, according to organizers – marched to the headquarters of the National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC), located in downtown Madrid, where they arrived at around 12.40pm.

“We don’t like to protest, but we feel ready to take extreme measures to defend our rights”

The Spanish Taxi Federation (Fedetaxi), which organized the march, handed CNMC representatives a letter asking for the agency to defend Spain’s taxi drivers.

“It is serious for a public agency such as the CNMC, which should defend the interests of Spaniards, to become an executioner for 100,000 families who live off the taxi sector,” said Miguel Ángel Leal, president of the Madrid taxi drivers federation.

“We don’t like to protest, but we feel ready to take extreme measures in order to defend our rights,” added Leal, saying that “political parties are sensitive to our situation” and that he felt confident the CNMC’s proposal would not make much headway, as “the laws are made by governments, not by judges.”

Other marchers underscored the fact that this issue had also come up in other parts of Europe.

“We criticize the fact that sector liberalization would entail unfair competition from portals such as Uber. The problem is no longer Spanish, it is European,” said Miguel Barceló, a 54-year-old taxi driver who traveled to Madrid from Mallorca.

“The problem is no longer Spanish, it is European”

The protest began in Columbus Square and ended on Alcalá street, where the CNMC is headquartered. Marchers walked behind 12 taxis, occupying three lanes on Recoletos and bringing traffic down to a crawl.

José Antonio Bolívar, an executive at Teletaxi Granada, was one of the marchers.

“The liberalization of the sector will lead to more encroachment on our turf and end the livelihood of 100,000 families who face ruin,” he said.

One driver, Federico Rico, had traveled more than 1,000 kilometers to participate in the protest: although of Spanish origin, he now lives and works in France. Some protestors said the march had not been bigger because not all taxi associations and federations had joined in.

This is not the first time that Spanish taxi drivers have rebelled against the ride-hailing app Uber. On July 1, 2014, Barcelona taxi drivers staged a 24-hour protest, while an earlier simultaneous stoppage was held in Madrid and Barcelona on June 11.

English version by Susana Urra.

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