Chile: Political campaign by graffiti

Matthew Maclean
A political graffiti message reads: ‘Another Chile is possible with the Left.’

A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

SANTIAGO, CHILE – Three candidates for the Chilean senate recently met with local officials in the Valparaiso area to officially promise, on their honor, to not plaster local towns with graffiti.

Election years in many Latin American countries are marked by colorful campaign slogans painted on buildings, walls, abandoned cars, trees – almost anything that doesn’t move. “It’s a more direct and inexpensive approach than hanging posters,” shrugs a campaign worker, who preferred not to be named in this article.

The practice seems especially common in Chile, with its rich tradition of street art and also the legacy of the Pinochet years, when youth mural brigades defied the dictator to voice – or paint – support for ousted President Salvador Allende.

Nowadays even established political parties defy local antigraffiti laws, which generally can’t be enforced unless the activist-vandals are caught in the act. The picturesque beachside community of Viña del Mar alone must allocate $60,000 annually to clean up graffiti, and officials worry that it could detract from tourism.

The three would-be senators were effusive in officially decrying the practice. But a fourth candidate – incumbent senator Nelson Ávila – refused to show up, taking advantage of the event to jab his opponents: “I have no need for such a show, because I, for one, have never defaced the towns of my fellow citizens.”

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