Right now, public transportation buses in Barquisimeto (called the rutas) has the words hora 0 (zero hour) written in all their side windows.
Those words indicate the possibility of a strike. The reasons behind it vary: from the lack of payment of subsidies related to the “student ticket” (used by both school pupils and college students) to the everpresent problem of crime in the streets.
But this time, the zero hour could no longer be just a threat to force talks between the State and the public transportation sector. It could really come true.
The reason: the fight for the sector’s very own survival. The Chavernment wants to take it completely under its wing, under the banner of brand-new “socialist operators”.
With the announced elimination of Fontur (National Transportation Fund), lines would be cut out of funding to obtain new vehicles or repair their aging fleets. The “student fleet” subsidy would be assumed by the Universities Ministry, which has already a terrible reputation regarding the financing of the institutions it takes care of. A troubling sign.
But the plan goes even further: Years ago, the Chavernment created a company to handle public transportation called Sitssa. It was supposed to compete with private bus lines that travel around the country. Now it looks that its purpose will change to handle urban services as well, and they’re already giving away Chinese-made long buses to those “socialist operators”.
Public transportation drivers are not sitting idly by, and they’re threatening with a general strike if necessary. Meanwhile, the state plan has a serious flaw. Those big buses Sitssa is giving away can only circulate in large avenues. Because of their size, entering small streets and dirt roads could be difficult. Those buses are being used now for mass transit projects like the BusCaracas or the TroleMerida.
No concrete action is expected from either the authorities or the drivers until next year. Still, the Chavernment wants to seize control and have no problem in leaving both workers and users in the dark.