Teddy bears are a symbol of safety. They can be a security blanket for a child who is afraid to stay in bed at night. Often times, teddy bears or any stuffed animals are a sign of what we loved about childhood. However, if you are hailing a taxi on the streets of Honduras, teddy bears can have a completely different meaning.
According to a report from site ABC Spain, the appearance of a teddy bear, monkey, or some other stuffed animal attached to the front of a taxi or hanging by its neck from a rearview mirror could suggest that driver pays ‘rent’ to various gangs. It seems to be more prevalent in the capital city of Tegucigalpa.
Another rumor around social media in Honduras is if a teddy bear is present the taxi driver may not be paying extortion money, but they are willing to cooperate with a gang member that is looking to rob the taxi cab’s occupants.
— Noti Bomba (@NotiBombahn) May 1, 2015
Police and, of course, cabbies say these claims are false. It has gotten to be such a problem that the police had to give an official statement on the matter. The spokesperson was Leonel Sauceda.
“In recent days there has been a campaign of disinformation; there are people who are trying to intimidate the population by spreading false information. There are people with bad intentions who are trying to spread these rumors to generate a negative environment and spread fear among certain parts of the population.”
Despite the claims the teddy bear scare is a hoax, it has been widely documented that taxicab drivers have been the victims of extortion from local gang members. In a December, 2014, article from NPR, the site chronicles the difficulties facing cabbies in Tegucigalpa. The unnamed man described an incident that he was a part of that caused him to think twice about the profession he was in.
His first day on the job, he was approached by a young lady who handed him her cell phone. The man on the other line simply was introducing himself as a member of La Mafia, a local gang. When the taxicab driver stated he didn’t want anything to do with him, his life was turned upside down. The next week, a man approached him while he was stopped and stuck a gun in his face. Fortunately, the gun misfired despite the assailant pulling the trigger twice. That was it for the man’s career in the taxi service.
“Yes, I stopped working. I stopped working for a while. Actually, I stopped working for life.”
What do you think? Is it a hoax, or would you stay as far away as possible from cabbies carrying a teddy bears on board? Let us know below.
[Photo by ABC.es]