How a herd of zebras is saving lives on Bolivia's roads, and the Caribbean island where ATM machines have become a tourist attraction.
Bolivia’s administrative capital La Paz has just 70,000 vehicles on its roads but they have 14,000 accidents a year. So in 2005 the city began hiring youths dressed in zebra costumes to help people across the road at the city’s nine busiest intersections. The zebras also tease drivers who fail to honour the rules of the road.
“Little by little, people are paying attention to the zebras,” says Ruben Espinoza, a coordinator of the programme. Because of its success, the scheme is now set to spread to other congested cities such as Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.
It doesn’t get much busier than La Paz’s Plaza San Francisco on a Friday afternoon. Two zebras stand on the curb chatting with a teenage girl. Then something remarkable happens: the traffic light turns red, and at the sight of the zebras, the cars actually stop. One driver, however, is a little slow and the nose of his car is left hanging over the crossing. One of the zebras skips over to the offending car and mimes pushing it backwards. He then continues skipping across to the other side of the street.
“I was telling him that if he didn’t respect the crossing he’s no smarter than a donkey,” says Ivo Romero, the 18-year-old boy in the costume. Romero says friends covet his job, mostly for the €30 a month pay. He is taking poetry and eco-tourism classes, made possible by his job, which he thinks will make him a more responsible student – and, of course, pedestrian.
Tourism on the Caribbean island of Curaçao is getting an unintended boost from Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Because of Venezuela’s falling currency, its middle class citizens are travelling en masse to neighbouring Curaçao to acquire dollars with their credit cards, which they then can sell on the black market back home for a profit. The Curaçao government has mandated that the dollar-hunting visitors stay at least four days, so that they have to spend money in its hotels and restaurants.
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