University Students Organize Massive Protests against Presidential Candidate Enrique Pena Nieto and PRI

Article excerpt

University students are becoming an increasingly vocal voting bloc ahead of the July presidential election, with numerous rallies around the country demanding fairness in coverage of the candidates and warning against a return to power for the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), its candidate Enrique Pena Nieto, and powerful allies like teachers union president Elba Esther Gordillo. Students made their displeasure known during an appearance by Pena Nieto at the Universidad Iberoamericana, also know as the Ibero, in Mexico City and through various demonstrations in the Mexican capital and elsewhere. Groups from a handful of universities in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and other major cities also organized a demonstration on May 23, with much of the communication and coordination occurring via social media.

While the protests appear directed at Pena Nieto, students from the Ibero, the Universidad Anahuac, the Tecnologico de Monterrey (ITAM), the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), and the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana (UAM) said their complaint is just as strong against the giant conglomerates like Grupo Televisa and Grupo Azteca, which control the television broadcast media. One group of ITAM students held their protest just outside one of Televisa's studios in Mexico City. The students hung banners and signs on the doors of the studio with messages that read, "I won't sell my vote, I am well-informed."

In Guadalajara, the protests are led by the Federacion de Estudiantes Universitarios (FEU), which includes students from the Universidad de Guadalajara and the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara.

The students set a goal to organize a nationwide protest of all university students in Mexico on May 23. "In less than two weeks, the collective of student organizations has brought demonstrations to the streets and shed a light on the role of the corporate media in inhibiting democracy in the campaigns," said the Spanish news service EFE.

Students use social media to organize

Much of the organizing has occurred through social media, especially Twitter and Facebook. "With the hashtag #MarchaYosoy132, the news of the mobilization that some 800 students are organizing on Twitter has literally traveled around the world," wrote the Mexico City daily newspaper La Jornada.

"Pena Nieto is the candidate who has the most contempt on social networks," said nationally syndicated columnist Sergio Sarmiento.

While students have been working behind the scenes to flex their political muscle, the issue came to the forefront during Pena Nieto's appearance at the Ibero on May 11. The PRI candidate's speech contained information that most students would want to hear, including promises of increased opportunities for education and an improvement in the quality of courses offered at all levels of study. "The education of new generations should be the main tool to combat corruption," said Pena Nieto.

While many students applauded the PRI candidate, there were plenty of jeers from the audience, some even demanding that Pena Nieto leave the premises.

But some observers said the verbal attacks on Pena Nieto, who is also representing the Partido Verde Ecologista de Mexico (PVEM) in the July 1 election, were not spontaneous. "The hostilities were deliberate," said Sarmiento. "Even before the presentation, several groups agreed through social networks to make it impossible for the candidate to make his presentation."

Others came to a similar conclusion about the protests against the PRI candidate, who is often known by his initials EPN in media coverage. "A large number of the students at the Universidad Iberoamericana were aware many days before the visit of the existence of the 'Plan to Welcome EPN,' including information about objectives, goals, actions, and points to accomplish," columnist Ricardo Aleman wrote in the Mexico City daily newspaper Excelsior. …