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Bogota bus strike goes national

posted by Kirsten Begg
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strike Bogota

Cities around Colombia are backing the transit strike paralyzing Bogota, with many taxi drivers and intercity bus drivers joining the protest.

“Following meetings with authorities [and because of the] unfulfilled agreements, [the unions] have made the decision to call a national strike,” Antonio Rodriguez, spokesman for the International Federation of Public Transport, told W Radio.

Bus drivers from Bucaramanga, Cali and Barranquilla have joined the strike, while Ibague, Cucuta, Manizales and possibly Medellin will decide their courses of action within the next few hours.

Colombia’s capital city of Bogota woke up to its second day of strikes today, with some 21,000 taxi drivers, as well as some intermunicipal bus drivers, expected to join the 16,000 bus drivers already striking.

Taxi drivers are in the dispute with the Bogota Mayor’s Office over the terms of an agreement over the payment of outstanding traffic fines.

Colombian media are reporting “chaos” in the capital city, with taxis drivers that are still working charging over COP10,000 for the minimum distance, which usually costs around COP3,500.

Some 200 new arrivals are reportedly stuck at Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport waiting for taxis. Bogota’s intercity bus station is experiencing similar difficulties.

The Bogota Metropolitan Transit Police reported that taxi drivers are attempting to heighten the chaos by intentionally creating traffic jams.

Bogota’s TransMilenio is reportedly flooded with an excess of commuters who are using the service to get to work, resulting in “traffic jams” of people.

A representative from TransMilenio reported a 24% increase in passengers using the service from 11 AM Monday, which equates to an extra 200,000 people.

TransMilenio also reported that many of its services had to be suspended Monday after they were attack with rocks by protesters.

Authorities reported that 33 trade unionists were arrested Monday for “acts of vandalism.”

Bogota Mayor Samuel Moreno said Monday night that his administration will not be pressured to negotiate. He added that “pico y placa” – the system that restricts the days that car owners may use their vehicles – will remain suspended while the strike lasts.

The Association of Small Transporters (Apetrans) called the strike Monday, due to its dispute with the Bogota Mayor’s Office over the process of exchanging old buses for newer models throughout 2010. Apetrans believes that the government is charging “laughable” and unaffordable prices for the obligatory purchase of new buses.

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