Cash-Strapped Argentina Discovers Carpooling

Traffic jam in Buenos Aires
Traffic jam in Buenos Aires
Pablo Novillo

BUENOS AIRES — Cash-strapped amid a deepening recession but still, in many cases, reluctant to take public transportation, Argentines are turning to car sharing or carpooling to move about.

This relatively environmentally friendly practice is well-established in some U.S. and European cities, but is still embryonic in car-loving Latin America. In Argentina it is catching on as fuel and car maintenance costs rise and public transportation remains defficient. Martín Rubio, one of the creators of SincroPool, a platform which facilitates sharing, says his firm provides companies with "a webpage allowing employees to coordinate their trips. We already have more than 30 firms including Volkswagen, Santander Río and Mercadolibre, with more than 15,000 users."

Some firms are opening pooling to employees of other firms. Mercedes Benz, for example — which created for its employees — now shares this with Bayer. Its business development chief Verónica Pagniez says that in initial trials "20% of employees used the service daily. We are now open to other firms joining. People share trips to come and go to work and move between the main office and one of the car plants."

"Time is needed for Argentines to make the cultural change, but young people are responding well and we even have directors offering their cars," she said. Argentines between 25 and 35-years-old are responding best, preferring a "non-committal" style of sharing — nobody gets upset if a trip is cancelled and people agree on costs.

While sharing is usually between colleagues, often for security reasons, there are also more public networks like Vayamos Juntos. One of its creators Alejandro Van Morlegan says they have "60,000 users and while some share their daily commuting, many now get in touch for weekends and even for holidays."

Who is to say the love of your life isn't about to get into your car?

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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