Mexico student movement plans more protests against Peña Nieto


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MEXICO CITY -- The student-led movement that emerged in Mexico against president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto is planning another round of protests Sunday. The protests are part of a wave of demonstrations that began almost spontaneously during the presidential campaign and appear to still be drawing big crowds since the July 1 election.

The #YoSoy132 movement, or ‘I Am 132,’ said it will call demonstrations in ‘all public plazas’ and at the presidential residence Los Pinos in Mexico City, in rejection of Peña Nieto’s victory by more than 3 million votes over his nearest rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.


Each weekend since the July 1 vote, tens of thousands of people have demonstrated in dozens of cities in Mexico over the apparent victory of Peña Nieto, whose Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ruled for seven decades until its ouster in 2000. The protests have been largely peaceful and almost entirely generated on social media; in fact, Sunday’s planned demonstrations are only the second since election day that the #YoSoy132 movement has formally organized.

In one grassroots demonstration July 7, protesters stormed the live televised wedding of an actor and actress tied to the Televisa network. Televisa is a target of demonstrators who allege that the dominant media conglomerate in Mexico favored Peña Nieto’s candidacy.

Protests have been buoyed by a string of reports that suggest the PRI campaign ‘bought’ votes by handing out debit cards and allegations from rivals that it topped campaign spending limits -- including possibly laundered money -- in its effort to return the party to power.

The PRI denounced the allegations but acknowledged before federal investigators that it handed out debit cards to supporters, a practice the party claims is legal (link in Spanish).

The second-place finisher, leftist stalwart Lopez Obrador, said he would seek to nullify the election result through Mexico’s electoral tribunal system, and promised public ‘informative assemblies’ of his own this month and in August. The leaders of both the main liberal and conservative parties said Thursday they would join forces to challenge the PRI victory over new allegations that some debit cards could be tied to sham companies formed by PRI supporters that served as fronts for laundering illicit money.

The transition of political power is scheduled for December. Lopez Obrador’s declared ‘National Plan in Defense of Democracy and Mexico’s Dignity’ looks to repeat the movement he started in 2006 after he was defeated in his first presidential bid by less than half a percentage point.


The #YoSoy132 movement is thus left walking a narrow line between maintaining a non-partisan stance but supporting the broader goal of nullifying the election results.

Because of its arduous decision-making process, in which consensus must be reached on major points, the student movement has been unable to articulate a long-term plan in the likelihood that Peña Nieto takes office. More so-called ‘inter-university assemblies’ are planned in the coming weeks.

In two conventions held recently outside Mexico City, one in a town in Morelos state and one in the political flash-point of San Salvador Atenco, participants said the movement resisted some internal pressure to support Lopez Obrador or the youth-oriented wing of his political movement.

‘We remain non-partisan,’ Rodrigo Serrano, a student-movement spokesman at the Ibero-American University, said Friday. ‘We couldn’t ... support [Lopez Obrador] because our original rules don’t allow it.’

The ‘I Am 132’ movement is named after a Twitter hashtag that emerged in response to a YouTube video by students at the Ibero-American University, after a contentious Peña Nieto appearance there on May 11. On its website, #YoSoy132 has also begun circulating a question-and-answer video on the movement’s origins and the claims made against it.



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-- Daniel Hernandez

PHOTO: Demonstrators gather to protest the results of the July 1 presidential election in the central plaza of Guadalajara, capital of the western state of Jalisco, July 7, 2012. Similar protests have been held across Mexico since the election. Credit: Ulises Ruiz Basturto / European Pressphoto Agency