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Mexico: Uber challenges ban on cash payments

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Uber said on Monday that it had appealed regulations that have barred it from accepting cash fares in the Mexican state of Puebla, in a new challenge to clampdowns on the ride-hailing service in Latin America.

Uber stopped accepting cash payments in the Mexico City-adjacent state on Friday, responding to demands from state authorities, and filed an appeal to a federal judge against the regulation the same day.

But the company said cash fares are crucial to reach Mexican consumers who do not have credit cards.

“To continue being a transportation option for people who pay in cash and to maintain the earnings of driver-partners, the company has decided to take, as a last resort, the corresponding legal actions and request an appeal,” Uber said in a statement on Monday.

Authorities from Mexico to Brazil have tried to rein in Uber’s use of cash payments, in Brazil because of concerns that cash makes drivers targets of crime, and in Mexico because of worries that allowing cash puts Uber in direct competition with traditional taxis.

In Puebla, specifically, lawmakers responded to the murders of two female college students who had used ride-hailing services with new rules in October aimed at improving companies’ vetting of drivers.

The rules specify that the companies should use “electronic payments,” but Uber continued offering users in the state the option to pay in cash after the law went into effect on Nov. 7.

Uber maintains that the language in the law does not expressly ban cash payments.

A spokesman for Puebla’s Secretary of Infrastructure, Mobility and Transport did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition, Uber is appealing a provision in the law that holds the company and other ride-hailing companies directly responsible for what happens during trips, saying it violates its right to “due process.”

Uber has said authorities should conduct investigations to determine responsibility on a case by case basis.

Uber is also appealing a provision in the law that requires the company to give authorities access to the platform, citing privacy concerns for riders and drivers. The company will continue to cooperate with criminal investigations, a spokesman said.

Uber faces curbs on its activity in other Mexican states. Last month, legislators in Quintana Roo, the southeastern state that includes Cancun, said they were also considering a proposal that would bar drivers from accepting cash and set minimum value and age criteria for the cars used for trips.

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CBN signals end to official rate regime for naira

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) may soon allow the naira to freely find its value, with a possible depreciation on the official rate, usually pegged at about N305/$, an update on its website has indicated.

The development is signaling an end to the most criticised foreign exchange rate window, which has been used mostly for government’s critical businesses that affect the public, particularly the importation of petroleum products.

If the move sees light of day, it will mean that the value of the naira at the official window is depreciated with its concomitant closure of the peg.

Yesterday, the apex bank, as opposed to the usual publication of the fixed exchange rate, opted to publish that “the rate will be market-determined.”

According to a report, the President of Shippers Association of Lagos State, Jonathan Nicol, said the Nigeria Customs Service had allegedly directed importers to pay for duties at the rate of N326 per dollar against the official rate of N306, citing an order from the CBN.

Also yesterday, the interbank rate depreciated by 0.2 per cent to N360.43 per dollar at the close of trading, while the parallel market remained steady at N360 per dollar.

A move toward a market-determined exchange rate would be welcomed by investors, who have long accused government of some level of capital controls and bemoaned multiple exchange rates.

The Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Investment Promotion Council, Yewande Sadiku, was quoted as saying the apex bank was in talks with other agencies to move to a single rate for the nation’s currency.

For an economic analyst at Ecobank, Kunle Ezun, “putting that on the website means the central bank is gradually moving towards a single exchange-rate window. It is making the exchange rate more liquid to attract more inflows.”

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24 Hours Across Africa

U.S blames Iran for oil tankers explosion

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Source:Reuters

The United States blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday that drove up oil prices LCOc1 and raised concerns about a new U.S.-Iranian confrontation, but Tehran bluntly denied the allegation.

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It was not immediately clear what befell the Norwegian-owned Front Altair or the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, which both experienced explosions, forcing crews to abandon ship and leave the vessels adrift in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran.

One source said the blast on the Front Altair, which caught fire and sent a huge plume of smoke into the air, may have been caused by a magnetic mine. The firm that chartered the Kokuka Courageous tanker said it was hit by a suspected torpedo, but a person with knowledge of the matter said torpedoes were not used.

On Thursday night, U.S. Central Command spokesman Bill Urban released a video of what the U.S. military said was an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp Gashti Class patrol boat approaching the Kokuka Courageous “and was observed and recorded removing (an) unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

The tanker attack will not affect Japanese energy supply, Japanese Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said, although the ministry issued a warning to Japanese energy companies.

Crude oil prices spiked more than 4% after the attacks near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial shipping artery for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf energy producers. Prices later settled about 2% higher. [O/R] Brent crude LCOc1 was down by 0.4% at $61.06 a barrel in early Asia trading.

The United States, which has accused Iran or its proxies of carrying out a May 12 attack on four tankers off the United Arab Emirates’ coast as well as May 14 drone strikes on two Saudi oil-pumping stations, squarely blamed Iran for Thursday’s attacks.

“It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo here told reporters.

Pompeo did not provide explicit evidence to back up the U.S. assertion.

“This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication,” Pompeo said.

Iran “categorically rejects the U.S. unfounded claim with regard to 13 June oil tanker incidents and condemns it in the strongest possible terms,” the Iranian mission to the United Nations said in a statement on Thursday evening.

It accused the United States and its regional allies, which include Iranian rival Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, of “warmongering.” Iran called on “the international community to live up to its responsibilities in preventing the reckless and dangerous policies and practices of the U.S. and its regional allies in heightening the tensions in the region.”

U.S. and European security officials as well as regional analysts cautioned against jumping to conclusions about who carried out the attacks, leaving open the possibility that Iranian proxies, or someone else entirely, might have been responsible.


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