By Sibel Tinar, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – As President Lula signed the Política Nacional de Resíduos Sólidos (National Policy on Solid Waste) bill on Monday, creating a law regulating the recycling of trash and to reduce pollution, the ongoing electoral campaigns prove to be environmental hazards of their own, as legal and illegal propaganda materials begin to cover the city streets, walls, and buildings.
Even though all eyes are on the presidential elections, particularly the close race between Dilma Rousseff and José Serra, October 3rd is also the date for general elections, in which all 513 of the Câmara dos Deputados (Chamber of Deputies) seats, and 54 of the 81 Senado Federal (Federal Senate) seats will be contested, as well as all state governorships and legislative assemblies.
With only three months left in which to campaign and appeal to the voters, many deputy, senator, and governor candidates deliberately choose to breach the strict regulations of the Electoral Law, and make use of illegal, oversize posters and signs, which regularly end up littering the streets and public places.
In the city of Rio de Janeiro, and after just ten days of campaigning, an inspection conducted by the Tribunal Regional Eleitoral (TRE, Regional Electoral Court) collected over ten tons of prohibited propaganda materials, mainly in the Zona Oeste neighborhoods of Barra da Tijuca and Recreio. It was reported that most of the illegal, oversize campaign materials belonged to incumbents, such as Sérgio Cabral, the governor of the Rio de Janeiro state, and Jorge Picciani, the president of the State Legislative Assembly.
Noise pollution is another major concern during election campaigning, and the sound trucks frequently used by candidates for propaganda purposes frequently exceed the volume limitations allowed by law.
The regulations in place to curb noise pollution allow a maximum volume of seventy decibels between 7AM and 10PM; yet sound trucks were among the items seized by the TRE in Rio de Janeiro, for either exceeding the volume limitations or use at night.
In order to enforce the laws to control electoral pollution, TRE employs ten cars and three vans that patrol the city, identify any breaches or illegal activities, and seize the prohibited materials if possible. The authorities have reported that most infractions are concentrated in Zona Norte and Zona Oeste, where the visibility of activities are lower, while the electoral activities in the more affluent Zona Sul, whose residents are more likely to complain of any disturbance, tend to remain within the limits of the law.
In São Paulo, on the other hand, the Cidade Limpa (Clean City) law that has been in effect for the last three years, has been suspended for the duration of electoral campaigning, in order to create a free environment for the candidates during this time. The suspension of the law actively allows propaganda in the form of paintings on walls or banners on buildings.
Marina Silva, the presidential candidate of Partido Verde (Green Party), and a vocal proponent of the Cidade Limpa law, has harshly criticized the suspension, and pointed out that it is the candidates’ responsibility not to cause any further visual pollution, which is an issue regulated by law.
Stating that a victory at the expense of the environmental regulations would not only set a bad example, but also work against their interests, Marina added: “We, who make the laws, should also be the first ones to abide by them.”