Colombian senator drives a taxi for a month to learn about industry

World Today

During Colombia’s congressional break from December-February, Senator Antonio Navarro Wolff decided to take on some extra work — as a taxi driver for a month to see first-hand the difficulties impacting the industry. There’s no better way to know what a person needs than to walk in their shoes, he said. CCTV America’s Michelle Begue reported this story from Bogota, Colombia.

Every day for a month Wolff woke up at 3:55 a.m. to begin his work.

“On the weekends, we can pick up people at this time but at this hour, on a Tuesday, it is better to wait for someone who wants to go to the airport,” Wolff said.

Colombian senator drives a taxi for a month to learn about industry

During Colombia’s congressional break from December-February, Senator Antonio Navarro Wolff decided to take on some extra work — as a taxi driver for a month to see first-hand the difficulties impacting the industry. There’s no better way to know what a person needs than to walk in their shoes, he said. CCTV America’s Michelle Begue reported this story from Bogota, Colombia.

The 67-year-old respected Colombian senator is a former presidential candidate, mayor, governor, and was once a member of guerrilla group M-19 in the 1980s. But for a month this winter, he roamed the streets of Bogota looking for fares.

Shock and amazement are usually the first reactions when the senator picks up customers. He paid for the gasoline and the daily operating fee of $25 to the taxi owner, and all of his earnings were donated to the local Children’s Heart Foundation.

Wolff said his most important work is to hear the needs of the users and operators of the more than 50,000 taxis, and 16,000 buses in the city.

The senator said everything he learned he hopes to apply when working on Colombia’s National Development Plan over the next four years.

“I have a meeting this afternoon with the vice minister of labor to talk about the formalization of jobs, because the decree the government has expedited is not correct. We need to modify it,” Wolff said.

Of Colombia’s 800,000 taxi drivers, only 15,000 have benefits, such as health insurance, pension, and labor accident insurance.

“For a politician to try to understand firsthand our needs, I believe is a good thing,” said a taxi driver who did not provide his name.

While some view the senator’s move as political propaganda, taxi drivers agree there are unmet needs in the industry. For Wolff, one of those immediate needs was a faulty voltage regulator in his taxi cab that cost him $65 and a day without fares.