Almost 800,000 pairs of school shoes emblazoned with a state government slogan will have been handed out in Puebla before residents go to the polls to elect a new governor on July 1.
The free shoes feature the “Puebla Sigue” (“Puebla Carries On”) logo that is associated with the administration of National Action Party (PAN) Governor José Antonio Gali Fayad.
In response to a freedom of information request, the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) told news website e-consulta that it had invested 123.7 million pesos (US $6.7 million) in the shoe-donation program.
However, the federal department did not reveal who was awarded the contract to make or supply the footwear.
Around 413,000 pairs — criticized by some for their quality — have already been distributed to students across 86 municipalities, according to SEP data.
Students in the state capital have been the biggest beneficiaries to date, receiving just over 140,000 pairs. The next biggest recipients have been residents of the municipalities of Tehuacán, Atlixco, Amozoc, Tepeaca and Tecamachalco.
All told, 790,000 pairs will be distributed. In accordance with the amount invested in the program, each pair comes at a cost of 156 pesos (US $8).
Gali Fayad, who is not a candidate, came under fire earlier this year for distributing the footwear amid accusations that the program was politically motivated.
The Puebla Bar Association said that the giveaway was clearly propaganda, given it’s an election year.
Martha Erika Alonso, the wife of former Puebla governor Rafael Moreno Valle, will contest the election for a PAN-led coalition in a field of five candidates.
Despite the pork-barreling accusations, the SEP maintained that the shoes were distributed legally and are not affiliated with any political party.
It said that the logo enabled their “institutional identification” and prevented them from being sold or used for other means that contravene the program’s purpose.
It previously said that the program fulfills one of the proposals in the plan for Puebla, which includes 22 goals intended to improve the quality of life in the state.
Mexico has a history of allegations of vote-buying, with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) most commonly associated with the practice.
At the last presidential election in 2012, the PRI was accused of handing out pre-paid gift cards to voters. Its candidate and current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, won with just over 38% of the vote.
Source: e-consulta (sp)