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Argentine judge orders Uber blocked, declines detention

By Hugh Bronstein

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - A Buenos Aires judge on Monday denied a prosecutor's request to jail local executives of ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc, though the court did order the company's platforms to be shut down, raising the prospect of a prolonged legal conflict.

In April, a Buenos Aires court said Uber, which has been criticized for failing to register its drivers or pay appropriate taxes, was in violation of local transportation and labor standards and ordered it to stop operating.

The application continues online nonetheless, spurring prosecutor Martin Lapadu to request additional measures that were only partially accepted by a local judge on Monday.

"The detention order has been struck down," Lapadu said on local television. "What the judge did was order the Uber page blocked," he added.

Lapadu said, however, Internet providers could only close Uber Argentina platforms if the ban were extended to the whole country, not just the capital.

Uber in Argentina said the judge's decision was "a new step forward" in its defense.

The San-Francisco based company has clashed with government authorities in many cities and countries around the world. Taxi services and labor groups have been frequent opponents of the Silicon Valley startup.

In Buenos Aires, taxi drivers have blocked streets while protesting against the company, saying it undercuts them by operating tax-free and outside of regulations that apply to taxis.

Some traditional yellow and black Buenos Aires taxis sport signs saying "No Uber". Signs have also been posted on billboards and buildings saying "Uber = Fake Taxis".

In June, the company said on its Argentine website that it had no plans of slowing down even after some users reported local credit cards were blocked from Uber's application.

"In spite of the obstacles that continue to be put in our path, Uber's business and plans for its expansion continue," the June post said.

(Additional reporting by Eliana Raszewski, Caroline Stauffer and Maximilian Rizzi; Editing by David Gregorio)