Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Change in Mexico?

Sue Witmer who teaches at Northeastern High School in Manchester, PA, pointed out this article which asks about change in Mexico. Instead of asking what's going to happen when the PRI returns to power, Guillermo Trejo asks whether there's a change in political culture taking place.

The writer of this Op-Ed, is an assistant professor of political science at Duke University.

Will we see a 'Mexican Spring'?
The rise of a social media-based student movement is shaking up Mexico's July 1 presidential race. This is happening just as the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI — which ruled for seven decades until its defeat in 2000 — seems poised to return to power.

The movement, led by students from the country's leading private universities in Mexico City, aims to prevent the return of a PRI government and to democratize the mass media. Spreading rapidly throughout the country since May, it already has had a measurable impact, particularly among young voters and independents who represent 30% and 42% of the electorate, respectively…

What is surprising this time is the unprecedented rise of a social movement led by students from Mexico's leading private universities — middle-class and well-to-do students who will land elite jobs after graduation. Movements led by students from public universities historically have been associated with the radical left and have not always enjoyed wide voter support. This movement led by private students, however, seems to be attracting the sympathies of the average voter rather than frightening him or her. Polls show approval rates for the movement ranging from 41% to 47%.

Known as YoSoy132 ("I am number 132"), the movement began as a response to the contentious visit in May by Enrique Peña Nieto, the PRI presidential candidate, to the Ibero-American University — a Jesuit school in Mexico City. Calling him "assassin," students harshly reminded the PRI candidate of his poor human rights record while governor of the state of Mexico. His police forces had brutally repressed protesters in a 2006 clash in the city of San Salvador Atenco. He defended his actions then as maintaining law and order, which angered the students, who chased him off campus.

Echoing Mexico's authoritarian past, PRI officials and Televisa — the leading network of Mexico's television duopoly and a close ally of the PRI — called the students professional agitators and accused them of working for the leftist candidate, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD. In the 1980s, this type of state response would have discredited the students. But after this incident, 131 Ibero students uploaded a video on YouTube showing their university IDs and condemning the PRI and Televisa for manipulating information. A second video, #YoSoy132, showing students from other private and public universities supporting their 131 Ibero peers appeared shortly after and has gone viral…

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