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(131 + X) > 50%

28 May 2012

I received an email today , thrown over the cyber-transom.  Addressed as it is to the writer’s fellow Mexican citizens, as a non-citizen, I had to abridge the letter to avoid the appearance of taking a political position, but what I quote below expresses the thoughts of more and more of the voting population than many of us outsiders (including the foreign media… especially the foreign media) have so far acknowledged:

PAN has held the presidency for the past 12 years.  President Calderon – to put it kindly – has not lived up to even minimal expectations, and this time round the PAN candidate proclaims she is “different”.   Josefina Vázquez Mota is female, but how is she any different from the present administration (to which she belonged)? The PAN election strategy has mostly been to attack the other parties – none of their own proposals seem very clear.

The PRI, the party who held the monopoly on Mexican politics for 70+ years is chomping at the bit to get back into power. All the old political dinosaurs are hoping to come out of hibernation with the young-ish  Enrique Peña Nieto opening the doors to Los Pinos. No one can imagine how much money is being spent to put this guy in place – the old boys will spend whatever it takes to get back to business as usual.

The PRD candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, claims he was robbed of the Presidency six years ago.   The “powers that be” have spent much time and energy painting him as the scariest threat out there. They say he will be president like Chavez in Venezuela or maybe as radical as (Yee Gads!) Fidel Castro. Post-election, he took to the streets, declared himself the “legitimate president of Mexico” and generally upset the apple cart – big time.  Even the PRD party faithful is leery of their candidate: AMLO is his own man.

The traditional media, seems intent on smearing AMLO and making Josefina look like a Barbie doll, but they tout the virtues of Peña Nieto – he’s portrayed  as the “second coming.”

So who is standing up to the old boys (and girls) club?  Who is beating back the media in its attempts to coronate their pre-paid favorite?  Answer:  “The Students.”

Last week, a group of them showed Peña Nieto the raspberry when he appeared to campaign (oops…I mean address) them at the Ibero University campus in Mexico City. This created much consternation, and in an attempt to diminish the importance of the rejection, The Media reported that there were only 131 students involved. What?!? There were many more than that… and so the students started to furiously spread the word: “I am Number 132” The slogan appeared on T shirts, banners, placards…

… And by-passed the media, sending out their message via youtube and other on-line forums.  In their message the students try not to level criticism at individuals and political parties; they target the manipulation of the campaign by the media.

“We cannot allow the media to manipulate us like this, we are fed up. The time has come for young people to wake up,” said one student.

“The time is right for everyone to wake up and see that manipulation and violence are not the solution for this country,” said another.

“This could be the start of what many are calling “the Mexican spring,” a third added, never imagining that a simple video could have such a big impact.

“It was a big surprise for everybody.”

Quite frankly, I am not surprised. I have long believed that this election could be easily turned by the power of social media. And in the hands of the young people… Watch out!

I admire the students who made the video and others who are defending their rights. It is time for some true civic action.

But I feel as nervous as a cat behind a wrought iron fence… a cat being watched by a great huge dog, who is trying to figure out how he might get over to the other side…  I have not forgotten October 2, 1968 or any of the other times when a small group tried to open the nation’s eyes…

One difference between now and 1968 is that the public is watching, and the people are, only a week into the protests, already on the students’ side for the most part.  María de la Heras, in her poll for the Madrid daily, El País, found that fully half of Mexicans agree that the media is manipulating information in favor of the Peña Nieto campaign and … moreover… if they had the opportunity, would join the protests themselves.  What is really eye-popping is that 65 percent of those surveyed see the movement as a sign of positive change in the country, even if only 46 percent of them think the students are not being manipulated by one or another of the political parties (presumably some of those who support the students are supporters of the parties said to be doing the manipulation).

De la Herra is quick to point out that reports about the protests are wrong to speak of “rage” or “anger”, given the so-far good natured (and often irreverent) message conveyed by the ” +131″ protesters.

Still, it may be somewhat worrisome that 40 percent of those polled thought that reaction to the protests by the Peña Nieto campaign have been appropriate.  While the candidate himself has been careful to avoid confrontations and any questioning of the protesters´motives have been left to surrogates, small (and possibly unrepresentative) groups of Peña Neito supporters have violently attacked  “+131” protests.

Of course, a violent clash (possibly instigated by agents provocateurs, as was seen in 1968 here, and in various “Occupy” movements over the last several months) could change perceptions of the movement, but  it appears the movement is growing, that the political landscape — no matter which of the traditional parties wins — has shifted, and shifted towards the better.

(A little more evidence of how far the “+131s” have come in a week, is that the head of the Elections Commission [IFE], after the students began an organized effort to recruit elections monitors [any register voter willing to take a training session is eligible] said he hoped there were 132 THOUSAND showing up to watch over the polling stations on the first of July. )


… AND… Televisa — faced with continuing protests outside its headquarters — has agreed to demands to broadcast the second debate on Canal 2, the “Channel of the Stars”, and not its less important (and less acessable) Canal 5.  Televisa has several sub-networks, with different programming.  The Channel (“Canal”) number is not necessarily the number you select on your TV at home, but the name of the sub-network.  The first debate, which Televisa did its best to avoid showing altogether,  was only broadcast by Televisa’s Canal 5 — a sub-network which isn’t available in some of the smaller television market regions, and in others is only available to cable subscribers.  Canal 2 is broadcast everywhere in Mexico. 

One Comment leave one →
  1. francesca permalink
    29 May 2012 3:08 am

    A great post. Gracias. The citizens of Mexico are fully behind the +131 movement. Up until last week, I watched the campaign with the jaded eyes of experience. I figured this election was all sewn up. But since the students have jumped into the foray, new life has begun seeping into my tired bones. We are all talking – the memories of our own youth and involvement in the Movement of 68 and other causes is still vivid… But we don’t want to see the youth of today meet the same fate we did. When will we get involved? If we see any evidence of “agentes provocateurs”, there will be more “old lions” in the street than you can imagine. There will be NO hauling away of young people on our watch! And I am going today to the IFE and register to become an election monitor.

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