The transport company leading a Bogota bus strike promised that Wednesday will mark the beginning of the “true strike” that began Monday. The capital city’s mayor insists on the reforms that sparked the protests.
Mayor Gustavo Petro has said he is prepared for several days of strikes as city officials continue to negotiate with strike leaders over the new policies that restrict the days a bus can take part in traffic, according to newspaper El Espectador.
“This will not be reversed. We are working for a multimodal system to benefit the users. The position of the mayor’s office is that the small [bus] companies be co-participants if this leap in how the city moves. That’s why we invite them to join the [public system],” Petro said.
While the mayor has said his administration was ready for the “third, fourth, or fifth day of the strike,” an official account of the Bogota administration tweeted a statement by Petro in which he claimed, “Our hand [is extended] to all small transporters, we are going to help them.”
Meanwhile, the protesters seem equally determined to achieve a reversal of the license plate restrictions, which will limit the days they can operate buses in the city.
The head of Aptrans, the bus company leading the strike, said that road blocks are planned for Wednesday, actions which city authorities oppose and which have occurred sporadically throughout the city since Monday.
For her part, the city’s secretary of mobility Maria Constanza Garcia said the following in a statement posted on Twitter: “We will seek the suspension of [bus] companies that block the city’s mobility.”
Strike leaders have complained that Petro has not attended the negotiations over the new policies. The mayor said he had a meeting planned Sunday with the representative of the bus companies, but the strike leader never arrived, according to Caracol Radio.
The representative is now complaining of having to meet with “fourth tier” officials, a characterization Petro rejected.
While the intent of the new license plate restrictions is to reduce congestion on Bogota’s busy streets and encourage use of the SITP, operators of private buses complain that the law is arbitrary and violates their right to work. The policy would keep an estimated 1,600 buses off the streets any given day, helping to reduce congestion and pollution, its advocates say.
Bogota’s administration has also received criticism for the increase of bus fares on the public system by around $0.05.
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.”