Driving cab in Mexico City a deadly serious business
By John Proos
(Editor’s note: This is the concluding article in a two part series about the vehicle-for-hire industry in Mexico. Part one appeared in the April 2017 issue of Taxi News.)
Mexico is a petroleum exporting country. However, due to corruption, gasoline prices in Mexico are higher than in Canada and much higher than in America. And you rarely get accurate, complete liters. The shortfall may be as much as 20 percent. Many drivers use only premium since the regular gasoline is such no-quality, low octane stuff. The price of premium is about $1.40 Cdn a liter, while regular is about $1.15 Cdn. This is a huge hit for the Mexican economy and has caused big, but futile, public outrage.
The Uber drivers all complained to me that they could not turn down any runs and they did not know their destination until the customer was in the back seat. Turn down a run and you get thrown off the Uber app when the rider complains. So unlike the regular cab driver, the Uber driver cannot say, “No, I do not go to that dangerous part of town.” They cannot turn down runs to places like Ecatepec, Naucalpan, Tepito, Ixtapalapa and many more dangerous places. Late on the Friday shift, Fernando’s friend, another Uber driver got a run to Ecatepec and texted that he encountered severed heads by the roadside entering a bridge. (Severed heads and dismembered bodies are always dumped in public places to create maximum public terror to deter anyone thinking of not paying quotas or challenging the currently ruling mafia cartel.) He texted that it must have just happened as the heads were still bloody. I never did talk to this friend again, so I do not have any further information; not even how many severed heads were involved. Obviously, the Uber driver did not linger.
I wonder about Uber drivers in big American cities. Can they turn down Uber runs to violence-plagued ghettoes? The smart-phone app does not discriminate. It does not socio-economically stereotype or racially profile. Uber drivers in Mexico City do get robbed by delinquents who steal or borrow smartphones. Nothing is certain. You are risking your car and your life. At any time your car can be surrounded by gunmen. Anywhere and at any time of day. Behind red lights, at speed bumps or cut off on the expressway. Happens all the time. Resistance is ill-advised. The insurance is there. I wonder how insurance companies can stay in business in Mexico with all the car theft. But insurance rates are much lower than in Canada, where insurance companies are politically-protected rip-off artists.
One assertion totally surprised me, but it was backed up by three Uber drivers in the know. It is claimed that Carlos Slim (who competes with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet as the world’s richest man) has “acquired” the Uber “franchise” in Mexico. This is entirely plausible. Uber gets nowhere in the world, not even in Canada, without bribing local authorities to not enforce existing laws. Carlos Slim made his billions through political connections and from being a name-lender to former presidents hiding their stolen billions. So it is entirely logical that Slim and his political buddies in the executive branch are on the receiving end of massive Uber payoffs and considerations. I was told that the mayor of Mexico City, Miguel Angel Mancera “operates” 3,000 Ubers. I assume he makes big middle-man fees renting out cars to be used for Uber, much like middle-men in the taxi industry. Billionaires everywhere never have enough and do not just retire on their $200 million dollar yachts. The more they have, the more they want. The mayor is already filthy rich from corruption, from raiding the municipal budget and from all the payoffs he gets from 30,000 bandit taxis. But he wants more and even wants to be national president next year.
It is claimed that Donald Trump picked up his peculiar animosity towards Mexico after a failed business deal. He had planned a mega hotel and golf complex on the ecologically-fragile Yucatan coast. However a separate twenty million dollar upfront payment to a local Mr. Ten-Percent was required to seal the deal. This was not some government tax fee but rather money into a private pocket. Trump sulked and balked , no doubt on monetary grounds, not moral ones. This is the way the world operates. In North America and Europe this process is better hidden and the populations are more naïve. But nowhere can a criminal organization like Uber just move in, give the local jurisdiction the finger and start operating in violation of all existing laws regulating commerce. This is where Uber’s 60 billion dollar slush fund and anonymous off-shore numbered bank accounts come in.
Uber has the hardest time accessing the least corrupt countries; places like Germany, France, Finland, Holland, Belgium, among others. They are outright banned in many localities. Uber, employing its stable of obstructionist corporate lawyers, hangs on to a tenuous foothold in places like Berlin, Germany and Helsinki, Finland. There, they must use only city-licensed taxis and licensed drivers. None of that Uber X crap. Or that nonsense about “a sharing economy” or only being a technology company. To quote a German judge: “German society values consumer protection, training, safety.” Canadian politicians mouth these same lines, but then legalize Uber X and let Uber write the bylaws to their liking and future advantage. In different municipalities, politicians have discovered they can get a better personal deal from Uber by playing hard to get. But in the end, they virtually all cave in, after feigning public concern.
When will the North American sheeple realize that politicians, at all levels, do not serve us. They serve those One Percent corporate interests that fund them into power and from whom they will seek insider connections and influence-peddling (ie. lobbyist) income once out of formal electoral office. The politician’s only interest is “what’s in it for me, me, me.” Cab drivers are just the latest group of losers to discover that the belief that we live in a “nation of laws” directed by representative democracy is merely another illusion.