Growing Youth Movement Continues to Forge Ahead
The impact of a social movement can often be gauged
not only by the societal reception it gets, but also by the reaction it engenders. And Mexico's "I am 132 Movement"
is no exception.
Born only several weeks ago as a Mexico City protest of private university students against the
media imposition of presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Green
Party (PVEM) electoral alliance, the movement has since spread to large cities and small towns across the country. In the
Pacific coast tourist town of Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, an estimated 250 young people and their supporters took to the streets
in June to demonstrate against Peña Nieto, and to call for the democratization of an electronic media dominated by
two Mexican networks, Televisa and TV Azteça.
"This was the first march that was done by young people
in the history of the municipality," Alondra Garcia, a 132 organizer, told Frontera NorteSur. Acknowledging that members
of anti-Peña political parties participated in the action, Garcia nonetheless rejected charges by Peña's
PRI party that the 132 Movement is a front for rival candidates, especially the Progressive Movement's Andres Manuel Lopez
"We are nonpartisan and receive all who come," Garcia said, adding that even dissatisfied members
of the PRI have expressed support for the 132 effort. "Everyone is welcome," she said, "and everyone, from
kids to older people, has come out."
Yet less than a week before the July 1 elections, the heat was turned
up in subtle and not-so-subtle ways on the 312 Movement. Media accounts reported aggressions and/or cases of alleged police
harassment against 132ers in the states of Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Morelos, Michoacan, and Guerrero.
According to Garcia and fellow activist Victor Ruiz, a group of 40 or so young PRI members in Zihuatanejo recently
held their own demonstration claiming to be 132ers that supported Peña Nieto. In the central city of Aguascalientes
and other places, counter-132 groups sponsored by the PRI similarly sprung up in the days leading up to the elections. A video
of a former 132 member spilling the beans on the Lopez Obrador camp's supposed hidden hand behind the movement recently
received prominent play on the same television channels that are the targets of Mexico's newest social movement.
Despite the opposition, the 132 Movement forges ahead and can even claim credit for unprecedented developments in the way
political messaging has been delivered this election year. Perhaps the movement's greatest single success so far has been
the Internet transmission of a third, previously unscheduled presidential debate on June 19.
Inspired and organized
by the 132 Movement, the event was a flowing interaction between three of the four presidential contenders and young questioners
who pressed the candidates on issues that have gotten short shrift in the campaign, such as the future of Mexico's indigenous
peoples and their languages.
Candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota, of the National Action Party (PAN), used the occasion
to announce her choices for a possible presidential cabinet, revealing the names to the Internet audience even before telling
the nominees themselves. A striking visual aspect of the production set was the empty chair reserved for Peña Nieto,
who declined an invitation to attend on the grounds that the sponsors were not impartial.
Technical glitches interrupted
the first minutes of the debate, reportedly because of an over-saturation of the website, but the event went forward both
in cyberspace and in public plazas where 132ers set up large screens for passersby to view.
Flanking a screen
in downtown Aguascalientes, a large information booth was visited by steady groups of residents who looked over photos of
government atrocities like the 1995 Aguas Blancas massacre, and read critical quotes about Peña Nieto from posters
of intellectuals and journalists including the late Carlos Fuentes, Enrique Krauze, Lydia Cacho, and Denise Dresser. Declining
to give their names, an older man and a young couple said the pictures accurately reflected the national reality.
In a comparative display, a map depicting areas governed by PRI local and state administrations was placed next to one of
territories under control of drug traffickers, along with the question: "Do you see a difference?"
Hernandez, a small businessman, said the idea of transmitting an important political event in the street was a "beautiful
idea," as well as an example of modern technological innovation. But disagreeing with the 132ers' stance on Peña
Nieto, the young man said he understood why the candidate did not participate in the debate. Concerned about tax policy and
burdensome paperwork, Hernandez said he planned to vote for the PRI's man.
Aguascalientes activists quickly
moved from publicly transmitting the presidential debate to holding forums featuring local candidates for the federal Congress.
An invitation to the PRI to present its candidates on June 20 was ignored, but the PAN turned out for a forum at a downtown
restaurant the next day.
PAN candidates, including former Aguascalientes Mayor Martin Orozco, promoted free market
and right-to-work reforms, urged continued action against organized crime, called for the eradication of poverty, and upheld
pro-life principles. Luis Manuel Medina, candidate for the lower house of the Mexican Congress, addressed the critical issue
of water use and conservation. According to Medina, agricultural producers near the town of Calvillo, Aguascalientes, were
now pumping groundwater from below 1,500 [feet] of the surface. "We can't be overexploiting water, because it will
come to an end," he warned.
Tere Jimenez, a 28-year-old running for another local seat in the Congress'
lower house, praised the new youth activism. In her presentation, Jimenez outlined how she would deal with poverty and drug
addiction. "I want to transform Mexico into a place where differences in ideas are part of a different Mexico,"
Jimenez added. "Mexico has to change, and we can't return to a corrupt past in which it is like being in prison."
Like the June 19 Internet debate, the Aguascalientes forum was a groundbreaking one in that it went beyond the typical
unidirectional political messages delivered to a passive public and instead involved an interactive exchange with an aware
citizenry assembled outside the structures of the political party system. Following the candidate's prepared presentations,
youthful members of the audience of several dozen people challenged the PAN on matters including the high tuition rates at
the local university, prison and judicial reform, gender equality, same-sex marriage, and gay adoption.
co-organizer David Juarez detected lines of division between the PAN and followers of his movement, but gave the conservative
party credit for making their program public and answering questions. "The party platform was presented, but it was contrary
to principles of equality and sustainability," Juarez said. "They back a minimal state, and a state that practically
does not intervene while leaving everything up to the private sector."
In an incredibly short period of time,
the 132 Movement has carved out a significant position in Mexico's national political life by directly confronting a formerly
semi-taboo issue: who controls the flow of information, and to what ends.
The movement's contention that powerful
political figures, the state and private media interests are virtually interlocked is supported by a recent study conducted
by the Citizen Committee for Electoral Observation. According to a story about the group's findings by the Proceso news
service, 18 congressional candidates have professional or family ties to Televisa, TV Azteca, the National Chamber of Telecommunications
for the Cable Industry, and other media interests. The candidates studied included members of the PRI, PVEM and Citizen Movement
In contemporary Mexico, the power of the boob tube cannot be underestimated. Based on the citizens'
committee survey, Mexican academic and political analyst Lorenzo Meyer noted in a recent column that 80 percent of 3,480 respondents
told interviewers that they got their news from television, while only seven percent relied on radio and even less, six percent,
on print media.
For 132 activists Alondra Garcia and Victor Ruiz, issues of media access, official manipulation
and freedom of expression are both deeply political and personal questions. As young journalists in a conflictive part of
Mexico, Garcia and Ruiz both said there were many stories they cannot touch without facing extremely grave consequences.
Last year, Garcia recalled going to the Guerrero state capital of Chilpancingo to cover the formation of a state truth
commission dedicated to clarifying the fates of more than 600 people who were forcibly disappeared by government security
forces in Guerrero during the Dirty War of the 1970s. Shortly afterward, Garcia's supervisor received an anonymous message
warning the publication to back off from the story.
The students and young professionals making up the 132 Movement
encounter other frustrations, Ruiz added. "We pay for years of college, leave and then there is no work," Ruiz said.
The journalism school graduate identified the spirit and goals of his movement with the long struggle of Chilean students
for affordable education, Occupy Wall Street, and other manifestations of the new global youth rebellion.
has) been called the Mexican spring," Ruiz said. "It was late in arriving, but it came and it will be hard to get
132 Movement activists plan to keep demanding government transparency, clean elections and media
democracy after the July 1 elections. In the few days prior to the voting, they are expected to be in the streets in Mexico
City and elsewhere protesting against Televisa, the Federal Electoral Institute, and political manipulation and corruption
Meanwhile, new messages that may or may not be the work of people influenced by the 132 Movement have
begun appearing in downtown Zihuatanejo. Signed by "Street Tweet," the short but poignant messages are handwritten
on large sheets of brown paper and posted in visible public spots. Positioned across from a new bar that blasts songs speaking
of gunslingers and grenade launchers -- and just down the street from the naval base where masked marines leave on patrol,
one of the messages reads: "If there were more guitars than arms, there would be more musicians than soldiers."
Another street tweet reads: "Never doubt that a small group of committed and thinking citizens can change
the world. In fact, they are the only ones who have ever done it."
---------- Kent Paterson is the editor of Frontera NorteSur. Reprinted with authorization from Frontera NorteSur, a free, on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news source.
Frontera NorteSur (FNS) Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico