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Revolt of the preppies

12 May 2012

Enrique Peña Nieto had been avoiding, evading and making various excuses for not speaking to the students at Universidad Iberoamericana. The general consensus was that Peña Nieto, having muffed a softball question about his own reading habits (apparently he doesn’t read much), his handlers did not want him facing a literate audience… not that the literati are going to back him anyway, but one assumes students generally read.   Especially Ibero students.

Ibero is not normally considered anti-establishment, or unfriendly territory for PRI candidates. The Jesuit-run institution counts several of the more prominent conservatives among its alumni (including Josefina Vásquez Mota), and has never been a hotbed of student unrest. In 1968, the year of student protests world-wide and especially in Mexico (and even more especially in Mexico City) it was notable mostly for not having much of anything go on and accepting the status quo. If Ibero students did show up at student protests in that era, it was a rare enough event to be noted.

So, while it’s no surprise that Peña Nieto might expect a less-than-friendly audience, the reception he received was unexpected — crowds yelling “¡Fuera! ¡Fuera!” (Get out! Get out!) and hecklers demanding answers to his role in the Atenco “civil unrest” and other repressive and questionable activities during his tenure as State of Mexico governor, as well as his ties to Carlos Salinas. Peña Nieto had to hide in a bathroom for around 20 minutes before he was hustled out the back door of the auditorium.

You would think the PRI candidate and his handlers would just say “well, that didn’t go well” and move on.  But then, that’s not the PRI way.

First up was the “outside agitator” defense.  Party spokesman Eduardo Sanchez is trying to sell the line that the protesters didn’t “fit the exact profile” of Ibero students.  Meaning… one supposes… they didn’t act like docile preppies and show proper deference.  In  other words, they acted like normal students.

Universidad Iberoamericano is located on the upscale outskirts of Santa Fé in Mexico City… an exclusive neighborhood of office parks and upscale housing. The corporate office parks out there have their own buses for their support staff  (the foreign-owned companies seemed to assume that, like the United States, secretaries and clerks and janitors had cars) … and there’s no metro running out there.  There is a bus, but you need to transfer at Chapultepec and it’s extremely crowded during the course of the day with just ordinary workers and household staff and shoppers.  Add too that access to the campus was restricted to Ibero students and staff and the credentialed media.

The OEM chain of papers (El Sol, La Prensa, etc… for better or worse, the most widely read papers in Mexico) are trying a different approach, claiming Peña Nieto’s appearance was a “success”, and a strike against the PRD, which — of course — PRI and Televisa wants to blame for the Jesuit university students doing what students are supposed to do:  question authority.

How this will change the dynamic of the election, I don’t pretend to know.  Student protests against Peña Nieto are spreading (the clip is a protest in Saltillo, put down with violence),, but I do note that even in the possibly skewed Milenio daily poll, Peña Nieto is starting to drop in the “if the election was today, who would you vote for” category, which doesn’t include undecided voters and may not accurately reflect the voting population, as there is no good way to gauge voter sentiment among groups that get most of their information from the internet, or who don’t have land lines, or simply give the name of the party to which they normally owe allegiance.  I DO know I am hearing from PRI militants (what in the U.S. would just be called party activists) who are reconsidering their choice, usually looking more at AMLO than at Vasquez Mota.

I suspect the “mainstream press” (both here and abroad) anointment of Peña Nieto as the next president of Mexico, and the assumption that the next administration would be pretty much the same as the last couple of administrations, was highly premature.

A lot can happen in the next month and a half, and I suspect a lot WILL happen.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 12 May 2012 4:21 pm

    I was there yesterday and will make the following observations – some of which I’ve noted on my own website.

    1. AMLO went to Ibero earlier and was “received very warmly,” one student told me. Others said the same. 2. Students reject the suggestion that AMLO people contaminated the crowd. Security always is tight at Ibero – speaking from experience – and students have to show an ID to get in. One kid waving an, “AMLOVE”, sign is rather poor proof of that. This was not an event open to the public. 3. I sat next to two kids with bad teenage mustaches and wearing suits. These guys looked like sterotypical Ibero students and they jeeered Peña Nieto as loud as anyone. I later interviewed rich kids who sipped Starbucks coffee and said they would vote for AMLO. 4. Students there are not happy with Ibero graduate Josefina Vazquez Mota making a joke about the school while speaking at ITAM. Expect some sort of similar hospitality when she makes her appearance.

    • 12 May 2012 5:05 pm

      BTW, here is a video of AMLO’s reception at Ibero:

      and here is EPN’s:

  2. 13 May 2012 9:05 pm

    So, if Enrique does not read much, does that make him the Sarah Palin of this election?

    Oooops…! But with one great distinction: He’s *ahead* in the polls.

    Has anyone commented on the irony of “nieto” being a common last name, but also meaning “grandson” in Spanish? The 70+years-in-power Mexican party making a coming with “the grandson?” Will the grandson become The Godfather?

    Somehow, it fits in with all the weirdness to expats, but just more of the same variety-of-things-that-happen for Mexicans.

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