Taxi drivers from several cities in Colombia launched a strike Wednesday to protest against what they call "unfair competition" from transportation companies like Uber and Cabify in the country.
Around 1,000 taxi drivers in Bogota will gather in five points of the capital city, and they expect to be joined by 45,000 taxi drivers from 22 cities across the country. They argue that the platforms Uber and Cabify have reduced their income from 60 to 70 percent
The taxi union called their members not to go on a general strike and completely paralyze their services, but begin a "turtle operation" where a caravan of taxis will drive slowly through the streets of Bogota.
"With this mobilization we look to dignify the taxi drivers guild, which has been hit for three years by applications that give away trips, charge what they want, raise rates without justification, do not pay quotas and are not regulated at all," Hugo Ospina, one of the leaders of the taxi guild, told the Colombian magazine Semana.
The drivers have called for a peaceful demonstration, since one year ago in a similar protest with about 500 taxi drivers, citizens reported attacks on drivers who didn't participate in the strike and paralyzed traffic in several areas of the capital city.
Taxi drivers union in Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena and Medellin have confirmed they will participate in the protest.
On Tuesday, the District Department of Mobility warned that it won't allow the guild to block roads and said the office will seek to suspend the drivers, removes their driver's licenses and may immobilize taxis if they participate in the march.
"The penalties will be drastic," said the head of the office, Juan Pablo Bocarejo. "We will not tolerate the use of vehicles intended for individual public transportation to block roads or to advance the turtle operation."
"We will be ready to control and avoid alterations to mobility or public order," said Bocarejo. "If there are violent acts we can institute criminal complaints against those responsible."
After an organizing meeting between the taxi drivers from Bogota and the surrounding district, drivers agreed to reduce the initial 10 meeting points to only five and turn plans for a strike into a tortoise-paced caravan of taxis.
Ospina said the guild will also demand a new bill to change the driving restrictions for taxi drivers, which are in place as a measure to reduce contamination in the city.
Last April, lawmakers shelved a bill that sought to regulate transport services on digital platforms.