President García apologizes for conditioning mototaxi driver’s licenses to high school degree

President Alan García apologized to the National Confederation of Mototaxi Drivers Friday, and pledged to modify a presidential decree that made a high school diploma a minimal requirement for obtaining a license to drive the three-wheeled vehicle.

“I ask forgiveness of these young mototaxista drivers,” said García Friday.

“I’m correcting (the decree) right now,” García told Radio Programas radio, “because it’s not acceptable that freedom to work be threatened in this manner; that because they are poor and do not have an adequate family structure, and didn’t have the opportunity to attend high school, that on top of all that, we’re going to punish them and keep them from working.”

In most Peruvian cities, particularly in the jungle city of Iquitos and in lower-income districts of Lima, the three-wheeled motorcycle-powered taxis are a popular and cheap means of transport for short distances off main avenues.

García attributed the inclusion of mototaxi drivers in the regulation to a mix-up, saying it was meant to apply to drivers of trucks and transportation buses and minivans, who have earned a reputation as some of the worst drivers in Latin America.

“It was a terrible mistake to confuse them with bus and truck drivers, who evidently need a high school diploma, must attend driver’s Ed and be supervised by their passengers,” said García. “It was a mistake to confuse these (bus and truck drivers) with these young men.”

Only primary school is obligatory in Peru, García added, and “that’s why we can’t plow ahead with a law that will push young workers toward drugs and gangs.”

“I have profound and sincere respect for these young men, most of them very young, who have found an honest line of work,” García added.

On Thursday, more than 5,000 mototaxi drivers confronted police in a violent protest just outside the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Two mototaxi drivers were injured.

“The President’s attitude is reasonable,” said a spokesperson for the National Confederation of Mototaxi Drivers, Federico Fuentes. “Presidential Decree No. 040, published on Nov. 18, does not coincide with reality,” and should be modified, he said.

Maintaining that law would only prevent thousands of Peruvians from working just because, for some reason or another, they weren’t able to finish high school, Fuentes said.

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