MEXICO CITY -- Kissing in public will be punished with fines and even jail time in the central Mexican city of Guanajuato under a new municipal ordinance that also bans begging, using rude words and street peddling.
The measure emerged Tuesday from a municipal government controlled by the rightist National Action Party, or PAN, which has been in power at the national level since 2000.
The ordinance also punishes tourism promoters who approach motorists, people who cross streets without using pedestrian bridges, those offering windshield-cleaning services and those who engage in street demonstrations.
For example, the law bans "obscene words and attitudes in public places that offend third parties, as well as touching obscenely in public spaces."
Those who fail to abide by the ordinance can be punished with 36 hours in jail and fines up to 1,500 pesos ($108).
Paradoxically, one of the tourist attractions of Guanajuato, capital of the likenamed state, is El Callejon del Beso (Kiss Alley), which as its name implies is an alley where, according to legend, visitors kiss in order to enjoy seven years of happiness.
For Mayor Eduardo Romero Hicks, the ordinance is neither excessive nor a form of persecution, and its goal is "to inculcate values and civility" among residents.
Opposition City Councilman Jorge Luis Hernandez does not agree - he told Efe Friday that the PAN measure looks like a "return to the Middle Ages."
He said that the text "lacks legislative accuracy and contains more than 100 errors."
For example, he said, the ordinance forces people to cross streets on pedestrian bridges that are often not suited for use by invalids.
The national leadership of the PAN distanced itself entirely from the Guanajuato ordinance.
In a communique, the party of Mexican President Felipe Calderon said that the "full and responsible exercise of individual freedoms is not only a right guaranteed in the judicial system of our country, but a fundamental condition for democratic coexistence."
Guanajuato is a university town with a rich cultural life where the International Cervantes Festival is held every October.
It is also considered one of the regions where the ultra-Catholic right has the greatest influence.