Saddam, bin Laden are new Mexico City behaviour cops

  • World
  • Wednesday, 19 Oct 2005

By Catherine Bremer

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and Mother Teresa are being deployed as behaviour cops in posters in the car-clogged streets of Mexico City in a campaign to stamp out bad driving, corruption and aggression. 

The unlikely combo -- who may soon be joined by George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler -- appear on the posters across the city with speech bubbles telling drivers to stop paying off traffic police with bribes or parking where they shouldn't. 

"For devil's sake, don't give bribes," declares a beaming image of Mother Teresa on an advertisement hoarding. 

A few streets away a grave-looking Saddam warns: "Don't double-park, you could cause chaos!" while bin Laden advises pedestrians to use footbridges to cross busy roads because, he says: "I'm concerned for your life." 

"It is a bit weird, especially as we're talking about civil disobedience, but it's supposed to be ironic," says Claudia Adeath, whose citizens' group "Muevete Por Tu Ciudad" (Do Something For Your City) is behind the posters. 

Each campaign poster bears the slogan: "Who else do you need to hear it from before you take notice?". 

"It's a way to get people's attention," Adeath says. "We want this to create a stir. We are all fed up of living in this urban chaos. Doing battle with other drivers each day is a tremendous waste of energy and it generates rage in people." 

Like city dwellers across the world, Mexico City's 18 million residents -- known in local slang as "Chilangos" -- have a reputation for being loud, aggressive and rushed. 

Moving through the sprawling polluted capital, one of the world's biggest, can feel like hacking through a battleground as you fend off pushy street vendors, eyes peeled for thieves, and watching out for dog excrement or garbage. 

Pedestrians cross roads at their peril and are often jostled by cars. Bus stops are a mass of shoving bodies. 

"London is chaotic too but people obey the law. I've never been bumped by a car there like I have here," said Adeath. 

Mexico City drivers tend to bully their way through traffic ignoring rules and red lights, shoving into gaps and blocking other cars. 

"If you want to change lanes never use your indicator," a Chilango recently advised a newcomer. "It gives away your strategy. Everyone will squash up to stop you getting in." 

Roads are often clogged by illegally parked cars and delivery vans. Junctions get blocked when cars refuse to hold back and leave space for when the lights change. Cars parked in the street routinely collect dents. 

"Every big city has its problems but Chilangos have reached extreme levels of disrespect, aggression and intolerance. We want a city with more harmony and respect," said Adeath. 

Her group has designed tickets with a thumbs-down sign that can be printed off its Web site and stuck on offending cars. 

Backed by local publicity firms, it has posters on some 50 billboards and in bus stops and metro stations. It hopes to add dozens more and keep them up for a year or longer. 

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