Peru taxi drivers block streets to protest Lidercon Co.’s safety and emissions inspection monopoly

Approximately 200 taxi drivers affiliated to Peru’s National Federation of Taxi Drivers, or Fentac, blocked streets in various districts of Peru’s capital, Lima, on Thursday, to protest a monopoly held by Spain’s Lidercon Co. – the exclusive provider of technical vehicle inspection services.

“We are protesting to defend our rights,” said Fentac president, Joaquin Rosas. “We can’t allow a monopoly to be established, we can’t allow Lidercon to do as it pleases.”   Lidercon won the bid held by Lima’s metropolitan government for a sole provider for the inspection sservices.

More than 200 taxi drivers parked their cars in some of Lima’s streets Thursday morning, before making their way to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, MTC, where anti-riot police awaited their arrival.

Only Fentac president Joquin Rosas was granted access to the Ministry, to speak with MTC representatives and hand over a list of complaints, including Lidercon’s monopoly, high fuel prices, the frequent revocation of drivers licenses, and too many traffic tickets being handed out by police.

“We are waiting for the Ministry’s response,” Rosas said in comments to daily El Correo. “If we don’t get one (by Monday), we’ll consider an indefinite strike.”

Spain’s Lidercon is the exclusive provider of technical vehicle inspection services in Lima, according to a contract signed with Lima’s city council. It had been locked in a dispute with Lima municipal authorities since they ordered its activities be suspended last February due to presumed irregularities in the service it was providing, but renewed its technical vehicle inspections in Lima on Jan. 5, 2009. The company charges approximately $20 for an inspection.

According to Raul Barrios, Lidercon’s vice-president, taxi drivers are protesting only because they know their vehicles – sometimes more than 20 years old – will not pass safety or emissions inspection standards.

Of the 35,000 taxis inspected by Lidercon since September 2007, 85 percent have failed their first inspection, said Barrios.

“It’s not about taking all the taxis off the street by tomorrow,” said Luis Quispe Candia, president of the transport consulting firm, Luz Ámbar. “It’s about reducing them (progressively) and according to certain criteria.”

Air pollution in Lima, which is primarily due to the high number of old automobiles and the oversupply of privately-operated public transport vehicles, has been exacerbated over the past decade by a series of policies and measures that were adopted without due consideration of their impact on the environment, specifically air pollution and air quality. Attempts by various governmental agencies, such as the Ombudsman’s Office, and the Municipality of Lima, have been both insufficient and ineffective mainly because they have been isolated and palliative efforts.

Peru’s Ombudswoman, Beatriz Merino, has recommended that more incentives be given to drivers willing to convert their gasoline powered vehicles to run on Peru’s less expensive natural gas. Other recommendations include that the National Police rotate its road traffic personnel, and that Petroperu, the state-owned oil production company, reduce the sulphur content in its diesel fuel.

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