Solís orders traffic police to end protest blockades

President Luis Guillermo Solís blamed blockading taxi drivers for forcing a helicopter ambulance flight Wednesday.

The president did not go far enough. The security ministry said that two persons died Wednesday afternoon when the driver tried to avoid a taxi blockade and pulled in front of a tractor trailer. The two women in the front seats of the car died, and two children suffered injuries.

Solís took to the airwaves Wednesday night to explain why he has ordered traffic police to break up any future blockades by so-called informal taxi drivers, the porteadores.

The drivers blocked roads all over the country Wednesday protesting a decision by the Procuraduría General de la República.

They are calling on the central government to ignore the ruling, something Solís said he could not do.

This is the latest in a long-running conflict between licensed taxi drivers and porteadores that began when a long-ago government declined to enforce the licensing laws.

The Procuraduría General, basically the government’s lawyer, ruled that just 30 percent of the existing  porteador vehicles, some 1,324, could remain in service.

Solís made a quickly arranged television speech in which he deplored the actions by the drivers. He noted that the country is facing two weather emergencies, heavy rain on the Caribbean coast and drought along the airambulance070915Pacific.  And, he noted, more rain is coming.

Despite the emergencies, the  porteadores blockaded routes to hospitals, ports and workplaces even in the areas affected by the rain or the drought, he said.

Principal blockades were on the Circunvalación in San José, on the Costanera Sur on the Pacific coast, on the Bernardo Soto highway west of Juan Santamaría airport and at Casa Presidencial in Zapote. It was on the Bernardo Soto where the fatal accident happened about 3 p.m. in Villa Bonita in Alajuela.

Drivers of emergency vehicles had trouble getting to the crash scene. The security ministry sent a helicopter from the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea to carry the most seriously injured child to Hospital Nacional de Niños in San José.

The craft landed in the middle of Paso Colón.

The blockades lasted about 12 hours, and central government officials spent much of the day in discussions with the driver union, the  Servicio Especial Estable de Taxi.

Solís in his talk said the central government would not give in to pressure or fail to enforce the law. He left the door open to discussions but asked the porteadores to refrain from more blockades.

Licensed taxi drivers see the  porteadores as unfair competition. The government has set up a system to legalize the informal taxi drivers, but the Procuraduría General’s ruling partly reversed this plan. Licensed taxi drivers also have been known to set up blockades to protest the porteadores.


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