The signs are all around us

By Antonio De Jesús Aguado

Bridges, lampposts, public buildings, buses and bus stops, walls and other readily visible public surfaces have long been used by candidates for local, state and federal office as places to promote their campaigns with posters and murals. The excess of propaganda posted around the city has raised several questions among the citizenry. Is it really important to have posters and murals every 50 meters or less along Salida a Dolores, Libramiento Manuel Zavala, Boulevard de la Conspiración, Calzada de la Aurora or Salida a Celaya? Have the political parties respected the agreement signed between the Guanajuato Electoral Institute and the municipality not to post propaganda in the area appointed as a World Heritage zone? How much money has been invested in propaganda? Who is going to remove the posters, and where will they go?
Collaborative agreement between IEGG and the municipality
On May 2 of this year, the local presidents of the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution), PAN (National Action Party), PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party) and the Green Party gathered with local and electoral authorities to sign a collaborative agreement concerning electoral matters. Among other clauses, the agreement states that the municipality has the duty of taking care of the urban image of San Miguel in order to offer a clean and attractive city for residents and visitors. The political parties have a commitment to respect the federal, local and state electoral regulations and to contribute to the care of the zone appointed as a World Heritage site (96 blocks of the Historic Center). The agreement also states that it is important to have municipal support for dealing with electoral propaganda. Sixty days after election day on July 1 the municipality and political parties are required to have removed all campaign propaganda.
Violations of the agreement
Most of the propaganda placed around the city belongs to two parties, PRI and PAN. According to Emilio Lara, head of the World Heritage Department of the municipal government, political parties have not always kept campaign material out of the World Heritage area. “Sometimes they respect the zone, and sometimes they do not,” he said. “Specifically, the PAN and PRI parties have placed their propaganda in forbidden areas, so we send them a notice to remove it, and they do, but after a few days they put it up again.” Although the agreement states that taking care of the urban image and electoral propaganda is the duty of the municipality, Lara said, “In the Urban Development Department we only have two inspectors for the whole municipality who are in charge of checking the signage of all the stores in the city, and if we add the propaganda, then it would be impossible to do the job.” On the matter of having a clean and attractive city for the citizens, Lara said “It is a good initiative, although even if the municipality, the parties or nonprofit organizations have good intentions, it will always be complicated because the propaganda material is of low quality and it easily gets damaged, so they have been replacing it every eight days. It is a good idea, but it is not practical.” Examples of tattered and defaced advertising and political signage can be seen throughout the city.
Disrespect between parties
Cristóbal Franyuti, the PAN candidate for mayor, said that the damage to his propaganda has not been routine vandalism. “All of our posters at the bus stops have been damaged, and it has been planned by the other parties. They do not like the idea of our good positioning, so they destroy our propaganda. If the damage were simple vandalism just a few posters would be defaced, but all of them have been destroyed.” Franyuti commented that his campaign is targeted to demonstrate the type of government that he wants to form, a transparent and inclusive administration with close citizen contact. For that reason in his advertising he depicts different sectors of the populations. He says that his campaign “has been successful.” Franyuti said that he has invested approximately 150,000 pesos on campaign materials. He acknowledged that this seems excessive but said, “If I do not own a mass media outlet, I have to figure out how to promote my proposals among the citizens. We are using the alternative media and looking for strategic places to place it, where most sanmiguelenses will be able to see it.”
In a press release the local presidents of the PRI and Green Party asked Franyuti’s campaign team to show respect for Mauricio Trejo’s (PRI candidate) election ads. “We ask you to stop destroying our propaganda or removing it from the lampposts,” they wrote. The document states that members of the PAN campaign are removing Trejo’s posters and then putting them up in forbidden places, taking pictures, then publishing them.
The PAN candidate commented in a press conference that the workers putting up his advertising  are volunteers and they do not have enough personnel to remove “Trejo’s excessive propaganda and put it in other places.”
One big billboard
One of the most controversial structures erected for the purposes of campaigning is located on Boulevard de la Conspiración. Part of Trejo’s campaign advertising; it is composed of 20 large posters promoting the candidate’s platform on such issues as employment, security and the restoration of San Miguel de Allende. When we tried to interview Trejo so he could give his view on this and other topics, his PR team declined an interview owing to “a complicated schedule.” The 20 large metal structures holding Trejo’s propaganda, according to Lara, could just be temporary. “The structures are located outside of the historic center, so I do not know what the process was, but there must be at least a temporary permit,” he said.
Sanmiguelenses express their opinions
After the election is over the parties must remove all their signage, and according to Franyuti he will donate the plastic material to some people who have asked for it so it can be reused. He also commented that the material is easily degradable. Lara urged the parties to remove their publicity when the time comes.
Other sanmiguelenses expressed their opinions to Atención about the candidates’ campaign material. For Martha Alegría “the propaganda is very annoying. It is not necessary to have a poster in every corner or lamppost, and I want to ask the candidates not to forget to clean up their political trash, because most of the time if they lose the campaign they forget about the trash. San Miguel is a place of traditions, but currently it is a city of propaganda.”
José Luis Martínez, a retired teacher, said “I have always thought that the candidates should finance their own campaigns. There are many needs in the city, and they are throwing our money into the garbage.”
Mariana Gutiérrez, a vendor, said, “I will be voting for the first time, and I will not base my vote on the propaganda. I will base it more on the candidate’s résumé. They should put up less propaganda, and only in strategic places.”
Nicolás Marcial, an employee, said, “It is an excess of money wasted. That money should be invested in social works, which could have even more benefit for the candidates. They should not just pollute the city with their propaganda.”

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