Even though your first Uber ride is usually free, you could spend the next five days cruising around Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires and pay nothing right now.
— Uber Argentina (@Uber_ARG) April 15, 2016
The company’s arrival to Argentina hasn’t been a quick trip. In a country with a strong history of labor unions and protest, days of taxi road blocks demanding “Get out, Uber!” have inconvenienced hundreds of thousands in Buenos Aires this week. Fortunately for them, it seems that Argentina’s government is on their side — saying that no ride, even from Uber, truly comes for free.
After Uber kicked off business on Tuesday this week, the Argentine government asserted that it was violating local law by continuing to operate. Its drivers lack the proper insurance and documentation required for Buenos Aires’ tacheros, the local name for taxi drivers. In retaliation, Uber decided to make all of their services completely free for five days, reported Reuters.
If the Argentine government isn’t bluffing, those free rides could end up costing Uber a lot in the country’s courts. Buenos Aires Transportation Secretary Juan José Méndez has affirmed that what Uber is doing is illegal — though the company itself has vehemently denied this charge.
“We have already ordered the service to shut down. If they keep operating it becomes a criminal issue.”
If reports are correct, the city already has its war against Uber well underway. Offices that the company was suspected to operate out of were raided to gather evidence, and at least two drivers were ticketed. Credit card companies allowing business to flow through the app were also threatened with legal action. Officials say they hope to have the app itself shut down next week, reported NDTV.
Recently elected Argentine president Mauricio Macri also pledged his support for the existing local taxi industry.
“I support the city government’s position defending taxi drivers. They are a symbol of the city and of Argentina.”
Public reception of Uber in Argentina was split. The country has a historically antagonistic relationship with the United States, and, because of that, many see the entrance of any American company into the country as a negative. As with Barack Obama when he visited the country last month, a hashtag #FueraUber (Get out, Uber!) trended on Twitter.
— Vivi K/ (@vivicent) April 16, 2016
“Uber represents savage capitalism. It destroys genuine work.”
— Alejandro M Frustaci (@AleFrustaci) April 16, 2016
“When Argentina goes to play football, everybody goes out with a flag and a jersey, but then you give your money to a yankee business.”
On the other hand, other Buenos Aires locals said that it was about time that taxi drivers lose their monopoly on paid-driver transport. A Facebook post went viral that mocked a perceived dishonesty among Argentina’s cab drivers. It pointed out common tricks documented in the city, like passing tourists fake bills or purposefully taking a longer route. Others simply supported the company by using its services.
— Palo Aschieri (@PaloAschieri) April 13, 2016
“He was my first driver, and I was his first passenger. Everything spectacular! Keep it up, Uber!”
If you’re not in Buenos Aires, Argentina, right now, you might still be able to get a free first Uber ride on the company’s website.
[Image via Mario Tama/Getty Images]