Police in Bogota have detained eight people for allegedly disturbing public order during a bus strike against a new transport policy in Colombia’s capital, local media reported Monday.
Thousands of vehicles, including many privately run buses, went on strike Monday as the government began implementing its plan to reduce congestion by implementing license plate restrictions to prevent vehicles from being able to operate every day of the week.
This policy had already applied to personal vehicles and is now being extended to private commercial vehicles like buses.
Some 40 buses are estimated to have been damaged in acts of vandalism in the resulting protests, according to El Espectador newspaper. The area of the city most heavily impacted by the strike was the south, which is populated by poorer residents.
Bogota resident Johanna Marcela Torres told Colombia Reports that the problems were not so much with traffic but with the lack of vehicles available for transport.
“It was very shocking when I left my house to see that there was no traffic, that the streets were empty, and the many people around me because there was no public transport. This generated uncertainty knowing that we didn’t have a way to get where we were going,” she said.
While the intent of the new license plate restrictions is to reduce congestion on Bogota’s busy streets and encourage use of the public bus system (SITP), operators of private buses complain that the law is arbitrary and violates their right to work.
Commenting on today’s events, former presidential candidate Clara Lopez tweeted the following: “Changes to Bogota’s transport model must meed the needs of citizens without ignoring the reality of the workers and small [bus] owners.”
Bogota’s administration has also received criticism for the increase of bus fares on the public system by around $0.05.
The city’s secretary of mobility, Constanza Garcia, has responded that “it is important to remember that the increase of the bus fare by [5 cents] announced by the mayor this past Thursday will guarantee access to the system to more than 850,000 citizens with few resources. This is the real meaning of the decision.”