Brazilian tourist dies as taxi drivers block route to Santiago airport

Isabel Cocker/The Santiago Times Staff

SANTIAGO- On Monday, a strike by Santiago taxi drivers against growing proliferation of Uber and Cabify saw the only route to the Aeropuerto Arturo Merino Benitez blocked, causing some to miss their flights and others to walk along the main road to reach their departures.

While waiting in the blockade to reach the airport, also known as Santiago International Airport, 65-year-old Mario Irochi Suzuki suffered a heart attack and died despite being airlifted to hospital. The Brazilian had been on holiday to Chile with his wife, and was trying to reach the airport in order to fly home.

The National Prosecutor, Jorge Abbott, has stated that the organizers of the protest could be prosecuted for manslaughter, reports El Mostrador. He confirmed that “[the case] is being investigated by the Criminal Investigations Office of the Western municipality, to be able to establish whether or not there are criminal charges in relation to the death of the Brazilian tourist.”

Monday’s protest was not formally organized by a syndicate or union, instead being publicized through Facebook and other social media, something which could prevent the investigators from finding the responsible parties. However, Abbott stressed that the use of social networks “provides us with a certain “traceability”, which will eventually permit us to identify who was behind these actions.”

Taxi drivers in the city have been embroiled in almost constant protests against firms such as Uber and Cabify since their arrival to the South American country. Nevertheless, on Monday the city authorities did not authorize any march or blockade, and prevented the taxi drivers from protesting in the city centre. According to El País, it is for this reason that they decided to stage the blockade around the airport.

The chaos that ensued around the airport has led to a discussion of wider issues, including whether the airport should be linked to the city by rail, as well as by road. In a discussion on El Mostrador, Álvaro Miranda, an academic from the School of Transport of the Metropolitan University of Technology, signaled that “all modern airports have a rail connection to the public transport networks of their cities”, stating that without this, the airport “becomes isolated and collapses”.