San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican police leadership denies targeting Uber drivers 

After a rough start to Uber operations in Costa Rica over the weekend, President Luis Guillermo Solís’ administration finds itself at loggerheads with the ride-hailing company and with the Traffic Police union over how to enforce the country’s transportation laws.

Hours after Uber service went live in San José Friday afternoon, police impounded two Uber vehicles. Later that same night, vandals smashed the windows of a car that was in Uber service, according to the company. Uber said that those drivers had its full support, legally and financially, according to company spokeswoman Rocío Paniagua.

Sunday, in an interview with Channel 7 TV News, Traffic Police Union President Homer Alfaro accused authorities of unduly pressuring officers to go after Uber drivers at the expense of their other duties. Alfaro said officials were “coercing” traffic cops to go after the app’s drivers. Alfaro told Channel 7 that it would be an “abuse of power” for Traffic Police to interrogate drivers about who was or was not an Uber driver.

Traffic Police Commissioner Mario Calderón denied Alfaro’s allegation in a statement Monday afternoon. Calderón replied that enforcing Costa Rican law on the illegal transport of people was not an abuse of power but rather compliance with the officer’s job description.

“Members of the union, who are traffic officers, have the right to have their own opinion about the legality or not of Uber but they do not have the right to not comply with their duties and disobey orders,” Calderón said.

The police chief said that only two Uber drivers have been fined since the company started operations on Aug. 21. On the other hand, Calderón said 4,260 people have been fined between January and July for unlicensed taxi service.

The Solís administration issued a statement Saturday denying that the government had “declared war” on Uber, as reported by on Aug. 21. The president did not, however, backtrack on Transport Vice Minister Sebastián Urbina’s statements that the company was providing an illegal service and violators would be fined.

“In Costa Rica the law regarding the transport of people is clear. We regulate it in order to guarantee security for our consumers of public services. And in this case there can be no exceptions,” Solís told reporters on Aug. 21.

Uber Costa Rica has denied that it is a public service, identifying instead as a private club that meets members’ transportation needs.

As the government struggles to implement an enforcement strategy, Uber drivers continue to circulate and the company continues to solicit new drivers. The latest Uber Costa Rica workshop for new drivers was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Hotel Auténtico. Uber spokeswoman Rocío Paniagua previously told The Tico Times that the company would support any drivers fined by police.

Paniagua would not say how many drivers Uber has signed up in Costa Rica but said the company’s goal is to have enough drivers so that an Uber can be available “within 5 minutes for anyone in Costa Rica.”

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Wouldn’t it be nice if the Costa Rican government would put as much emphasis on enforcing violent crimes such as robberies and murder as they are to Uber?

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Hachi Ko

Uber has a good line…

“We are cheaper, we are faster, we are better…”

I can concede that point.

What else is Uber?

Uber is a company that does Absolutely Nothing, in the transportation industry. Uber provides the user with an application that can summon a “ride” within 5 minutes. Any grade-schooler can do that. So why don’t they? Because it’s illegal… that’s why. Uber does nothing in the transportation industry. Uber understands nothing about the transportation industry. Uber recruits drivers and insurers and provides a nice little app for the customers and drivers to use. That’s all.

Uber would like everyone to believe that Uber is a “private club” that is not providing a “public service.” I seriously doubt that Uber even understands the difference. Wanna talk about corruption in business and politics? I’ll give that a go…

Uber wants to convince as many people as possible to use their “app” (that’s ALL that Uber does) until the bottom falls out… at which time, the Uber guys will abscond with their millions…

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Mark Kahle

Since when do the police have the right to their own opinion on what is or is not legal?
That Calderon would think that, let alone say it shows exactly what is wrong with the police in this country and the training they receive. He just reinforced all the negative comments ever made about our police.

The only orders they must obey are “legal” orders.

Is Transport Vice Minister Sebastián Urbina off his rocker as well?? UBER does not serve the public, they serve members only. If this man is going to apply the law as he sees it then every church bus, limousine service and private car with passengers that are not blood related had better get the same ticket. He obviously has reading comprehension bias problems.

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