Hundreds of taxi drivers blocked the entrances and exits of some of the main cities of Honduras this Wednesday with their units to demand that the government allow them to reactivate their activity, after a strike since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are protesting hunger, we do not have money to support the family, the children ask us for food,” Evaristo Padilla, 28, a taxi driver with whom he said covers the route between downtown Tegucigalpa and the El Bosque neighborhood, in the northeast of the city.
THEY DO NOT RECEIVE GOVERNMENT SOLIDARITY BAG
He added that many taxi drivers have been asking for help from the government because with the curfew declared in March they have not been able to work and nobody helps them.
Padilla stressed that the taxi drivers have not been given a “solidarity bag” by the government, a state social program for poor families consisting of food for at least a week, which began to be distributed in late March.
Some of the taxi drivers, carrying blue and white Honduran flags, who gathered at the exit of the Honduran capital to the north of the country, tried to close the two lanes of a boulevard, but after speaking with an officer of the National Police , they decided to occupy only one.
Dozens of members of the National Police and the Military Police of Public Order were posted at the exits of the city to prevent traffic from being obstructed.
ACCEPT SANITARY MEASURES
“The government is fine because they eat the three times, but we, if we do not work every day, we have nothing to take home, hunger is killing us,” Marcelo Bonilla, another taxi driver who believes that it is “long enough” that they have been unemployed and that they are willing to “take all measures” so as not to infect themselves and the passengers.
Another similar protest was held in the city of San Pedro Sula, the second largest, in the north of the Central American country.
Bonilla stressed that they are committed to “complying with all the security measures that the Government says” to counter the coronavirus pandemic, which has already caused 188 deaths and 4,401 infected in the country, according to the National Risk Management System (Sinager) .
The taxi drivers who protested today were wearing a mask and some were also wearing gloves.
The Government has been announcing that the country’s economy, including urban and intercity transport, which includes taxis and buses, will be gradually reactivated under rigorous sanitary measures.
REACTIVATION NEXT WEEK
With transport, the reactivation in Tegucigalpa would be starting next week, only with taxis, while in San Pedro Sula with the interurban service, according to the authorities of the Honduran Institute of Land Transport (IHTT).
In the case of taxi drivers, mainly those who cover defined routes, under normal conditions they transport three passengers behind and one forward, but when the sector is reactivated, they can only carry two.
In addition, passengers must be separated by a cabin and, like the driver, must wear face masks and alcohol gel to avoid contagion.
Another taxi driver, Aníbal Cantarero, stressed to Efe that “with two passengers, as the government wants”, they will lose “half the income, but nothing is worse.”
Taxi drivers in Honduras, who for the most part do not own the units they drive, have to meet a rate set by the owner. In addition, the taxi driver must cover the fuel consumption.
Another problem that many taxi drivers have been facing for several years is extortion by organized gangs, known as “maras,” which during the pandemic, apparently have stopped their criminal activity, or at least reduced it, according to various sources.
The economic recovery is also required by other sectors of the country, mainly the informal economy.
Some businesses, such as fast food restaurants, supermarkets and hardware stores, for example, have been opening their doors from 07:00 to 17:00 local time (from 13:00 to 23:00 GMT), from Monday to Friday. On Saturday and Sunday those businesses are closed and nobody leaves.
In order for the population to be supplied with food, fuel and to carry out banking operations, it has been established that it starts from the last digit of their identity card or passport.
That implies that people can only go out once every fortnight.