SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) -- Crime-weary Salvadorans refer to street-gang shakedowns as rent. So anti-crime activists are using a comic rent-dodger to encourage them to reject extortion attempts.
The Don Ramon Citizen's Movement has printed posters of the lanky, weedy deadbeat from the long-running Mexican television comedy "El Chavo del Ocho."
Movement organizer Ernesto Lopez says Don Ramon "always had an excuse, and the courage" not to pay rent.
The show that originally aired in the 1970s involves the endless attempts of Sr. Barriga ("Mr. Paunch") to squeeze rent out of the wily Don Ramon.
El Salvador's Mara street gangs charge millions of dollars in protection money annually from motorists, bus drivers, store owners and others.
In their manifesto, the Don Ramon Citizen's Movement stated:
"Ours is a call to civil courage and taking responsibility for our communities. It's not about responding to violence with more violence. Its about Salvadorans taking back what is ours, that the gang members come back to being among our circle of friends, that respect goes back to being something that you earn with work and decency, not threats and violence, that "the barrio (neighborhood)" goes back to being a place of coexistence and joy, not a territory being disputed by gangs.
Our call is to overcome fear. We can no longer permit fear to paralize us. We have to raise our voice and show that we, the decent people, are stronger. The face of Don Ramon spread through the city so quickly because it is a symbol that the majority of us are tired of staying quiet.
Don Ramon is not just a face that we have adapted to express that were are tired of this, and that as individuals we are willing to take responsibility for our families, for our communities, for our El Salvador. There is no political party, church or ministry behind this campaign. We are all Don Ramon."