06 December 2005

Corruption on the roads... Mob vs. Gov't

The bus ride home from Fundão takes about 1 hour. Taking a van takes more like 40 minutes (beacause it skips a bunch of stops in Centro and goes straight to Zona Sul). When I first arrived, I thought this was a wonderful solution for people who wanted a straighter shot home after a long days work, or not, as the case may be.

Anyway, I got to thinking about how they determined which van drivers take the route from Fundão to Zona Sul. Apparently the vans are somewhat illegal, or at the very least the government doesn't regulate them. So what keeps all the van drivers from taking the best routes and leaving others alone. At first I thought it was that the drivers would move around a lot, always looking for the best route. If a route goes dry, they could just switch to a better one that fewer other drivers are running on a particular day.

But after seeing the same drivers, more or less, doing the same routes day after day, I started to wonder what could be reducing their mobility to other routes. Believe it or not, it may be the mob. It seems that if the government doesn't restrict entry (through licensing) and it doesn't protect a van drivers' right to drive around willing customers then that leaves room for somebody else steps in. In this case, it is the mob.

For a fee, the mob allows bus drivers to take a certain route (if you don't pay, I don't know what happens, but it probably ends with you without your van/life). They do this by selling stickers that the drivers place up in the front wind shield to show which route they are running. I think they rent them on daily or weekly basis. This restricts entry to those drivers that feel they can make a profit after costs (van maintain, gas, doorman, mob fee, personal alternatives, etc). First glance says that means you only get the most efficient drivers to run the routes with expensive stickers. However, it is also prone to corruption, because if you know the mob you can probably get a discounted sticker, so maybe you end up with drivers with mob connections.

A lot of this is speculation based on my poor understanding of van drivers speaking in Portuguese, but its still pretty interesting.

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