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Mexico: Citizen Initiative to the Clear the Streets of Election Trash

[All links lead to Spanish language pages except]

Every three years, the streets of Mexico are plastered with a thick layer of unending advertisements sporting images of smiling candidates for a variety of elected positions, each promoting his/her image, name and recycled campaign slogans.

The elections are held, the campaigns draw to a close, and yet the advertisements remain for days, weeks and even months – forming part of the urban landscape.

This year, when the pre-election period in the Federal District (DF) ended and citizens began to pressure Mayor  Marcelo Ebrard to immediately remove the trash, he responded:

No puedo quitar todo en un día.

I can't take it all down in a one day.

This year, citizens were not satisfied with his response but, instead of rhetorically pressuring the mayor, they decided to roll up their sleeves in the face of the challenge; and thus was born “Take Down an Election Ad; Adopt Your Street”, or #Quitaunanuncio ["TakeDownAnAd"] on Twitter.

On February 8, Thais Muñoz (@thaismunoz) tweeted:

NETA, adopten la cuadra donde viven y no va a importar tanto quien gane las malditas elecciones. Barre, #Quitaunanuncio y recoge la basura

SERIOUSLY, adopt the block where you live and it won't matter so much who wins the damn elections. Start sweeping, #Quitaunanuncio and clear the trash.

Thais’ tweet reflects the frustration felt by a large part of the Mexican electorate, which sees the elections as a huge competition among members of a political class that is interested in votes only when necessary and then rewards voters with propaganda they never asked for.

Activist Jesús Robles Maloof drafted a guide for citizens in which he argues:

Con el año llegó el frenesí electoral. No es fácil escaparse….pero en ningún lugar es más evidente como en las calles de las ciudades, en especial las de esta capital. Por supuesto, es deseable que como ciudadanos participemos, debatamos y exijamos propuestas para mejorar la situación de nuestro país, por la misma razón, estos anuncios partidistas no aportan nada.

The year rolled in with the frenzy of election. It is hard to avoid it…. and nowhere is it more evident than in the city streets, especially those of our capital. Of course, it is preferable that we as citizens participate, debate and demand proposals to improve our country's situation; as such, these advertisements bring no benefits.

He then describes four steps to remove the advertisements and offers legal aid to those who may run into problems with the authorities for taking the signs down. He also updates his post with similar proposals:

Eugenia Callejas ha sugerido documentar la propaganda que contamina y subir fotos a twitter con el hastag #NoalaBasuraElectoral. Malú Flores consejera ciudadana en un distrito del IFE ha animado a la ciudadanía a denunciar estas infracciones ante las autoridades. En la página http://basurapolitica.net/ documentan por medio de fotografías. Un grupo de facebook #BasuraElectoral ha convocado una primera brigada de limpieza ciudadana para este domingo 19 de febrero. Colectivos como La Cuadra A.C. Somos Ciudad y Camina, Haz Ciudad se han sumado a #QuitaUnAnuncio. Aunque ya empezamos el retiro, en esta comunidad formaremos brigadas de acción para este sábado 18 de febrero a las 10 horas en un lugar por determinar. Jorge de la Vega ya tiene las camisetas listas.

Eugenia Callejas has suggested that citizens document advertising pollution and upload photos to Twitter under the hashtag #NoalaBasuraElectoral ["NoElectionTrash"]. Malú Flores, an election board member in a given district, has encouraged citizens to denounce these infractions to the authorities. One website, http://basurapolitica.net/ ["politicaltrash"], is documenting the election trash in images. A Facebook group, #BasuraElectoral ["ElectionTrash"], has convened a citizens’ cleaning brigade to meet this Sunday, February 19. Groups like La Cuadra A.C. ["The Block"], Somos Ciudad ["We Are the City"] and Camina, Haz Ciudad ["Walk, Make the City Yours"] have joined up with #QuitaUnAnuncio. Although we have already begun to remove signs, in this community we will form action brigades to work this Saturday, February 18, at 10 a.m. in a place yet to be announced. Jorge de la Vega already has shirts ready.

The proposal to “Take Down An Ad” has been embraced by the Twitter community, which has actively contributed to public denouncement of the election signs and has published photos of their removal, one example being  Mariela Alatriste:

Mariela Alatriste (@maaariela) says: "If you can't fight 'em, take down their ads. #quitaunanuncio." Image reprinted with author's permission.

The initiative was publicized on February 15 on the front page of the newspaper La Reforma and has given more visibility to the proposal spurred by the Twitter community.

Finally, the blog Sopitas clarified:

Estas acciones no están en contra del proceso electoral ni de ejercer el derecho al voto; pero sí busca hacer evidente que estamos hartos de ese gasto excesivo que no aporta nada (sólo son plásticos con caritas sonrientes y frases ridículas) y que al final termina en la basura.

These are not actions against the election process nor against the right to vote, but they do seek to bring to light the fact that we are sick of this excessive spending that brings no benefits (only plastic signs with smiling faces and ridiculous phrases) and ends up as trash.

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