Hundreds of taxi drivers demonstrated here Friday in front of Paraguay's Palace of Justice in protest against the arrival of Uber on the streets, as lawyers representing the cabbies filed a motion seeking an injunction against the ride-sharing service.
From the earliest hours of the morning, taxi cabs from more than a score of cities blocked roads to the building.
The caravan of cars, joined in solidarity by some city buses, forced other drivers to change their usual route to work and even drive on the sidewalks when necessary.
The protest exploded simultaneously in other towns far removed from the capital like Ciudad del Este and Encarnacion, where the cabbies also quit working for the day to gather in front of courthouses.
The taxi drivers union considers that Uber's arrival, as well as the presence of the home-grown app MUV, could mean the loss of 40,000 jobs across the country.
"We believe this is a threat, it breaks all the rules. There's no longer any security under law that can protect our citizens, whatever business they're in," the secretary general of the Professional Taxi Drivers Association of Asuncion, Francisco Brite, told EFE.
The union demanded that both the Paraguayan government and the Asuncion municipality sit down at a table to debate the conditions that the new transport companies must submit to.
"Paraguay is a fifth-world country, it's not a country to be copying Europe and imposing here whatever they do there," Brite said, recalling that 70 percent of the nation's population are under 35 and struggling to find jobs.
Amid cries of "Uber out, MUV out," the demonstrators marched symbolically several times around the Palace of Justice and later joined hands to form a long human chain that for several minutes encircled the building.
The protests came two days after the regional manager of Uber in the Southern Cone of South America, Mariano Otero, announced the arrival of the ride-sharing service in Paraguay and launched the process of selecting drivers.
Uber began negotiating its move into Paraguay last September, when company executives met with the deputy minister of the Secretariat of State for Taxation (SET), Fabian Dominguez.