With reference to the uprisings known as the ‘Arab Spring’, students in Mexico have gathered apace in recent weeks to protest against Enrique Peña Nieto, the presidential candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and wider issues of media-manipulation surrounding the presidential election on July 1.

The spark was lit on May 11 during a meeting between Peña Nieto and students at the prestigious Iberoamericana University (Ibero) in which he was heckled with shouts of “Coward!”, “Ibero doesn’t want you!”, and “Assassin!”. It is worth pointing out that Peña Nieto was the governor of Estado de México during the repression of the San Salvador Atenco mobilisation, also known as the ‘Popular Front in Defence of the Land’, in 2006, that led to the detention of 350 people and the rape of 26 women.

The media duopoly of Televisa and TV Azteca tried to deny the strength of force of the students’ protests against the PRI candidate, suggesting that they were stooges of left-centre candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Through social media outlets, the response was swift involving the posting of a YouTube video by some 131 students affirming their real identity and then followed by a buzz on Twitter, using the hashtag #yosoy132 (I am 132), asserting a collective identity. An initial gathering centred at the Estela de Luz (Pillar of Light), in Mexico City, which is a controversial monument intended to commemorate the bicentenary of Mexico’s independence from Spain in 2010 but has become emblematic of state largesse following its delayed inauguration in 2012. A series of marches have followed, officially estimated to include some 46,000 protesters, demonstrating from Mexico City’s Zócalo to the capital’s central avenue, Paseo de la Reforma, and congregating at the monument to the Angel of Independence.

On May 26, the students held an assembly in Tlatelolco – the sight of the government massacre of students on October 2 1968 – resulting in a series of resolutions. These included affirming the movement as anti-PRI and anti-Peña Nieto; as anti-neoliberal; as non-violent; as a “horizontal” organisation without centralised leadership; as a unified movement stretching across public and private universities; and as a mobilisation with aims to encompass wider social participation beyond student involvement. Among these initial resolutions it was stated that:

This movement seeks as one of its most important tasks to democratise the media, to stop it being used as instruments of alienation, manipulation and domination of the population, and to serve as spaces for social development, to promote education and high quality culture in the development of its contents and selected by the population.

A national mobilisation has now been summoned, on June 3, to convene “a group of intellectuals (not including the usual organic) and artists” to protest in the streets of major cities across Mexico. Will ‘La Primavera mexicana’ (the Mexican Spring) gain momentum? The conservative analysis of The Economist suggests caution in overstating the power of the movement. In Mexico, radical figures such as Gustavo Esteva have drawn a compelling analogy in the daily newspaper La Jornada between the present context and the dominance of neoliberalism under Carlos Salinas. Previously, the public emergence of the Zapatista uprising in 1994 knocked the “little theatre” of the PRI and its claims to have taken Mexico out from underdevelopment. For the youth of today, Esteva claims, “It is your moment”, although he too is cautious in his conclusion stating that, “We need to all take it with clarity and responsibility”.

Can the ‘Mexican Spring’ and the YoSoy132 movement ignite a national mobilisation against the media manipulation of information linked to the 2012 election? What of the wider connection to anti-neoliberal autonomist social movements in Mexico, such as the Zapatistas? Can a solidarity of interests be forged with parallel struggles linked to organised labour? In this process of becoming, it will be interesting to see how the ‘Mexican Spring’ heats up over the summer months and what will be the consequences for neoliberalism in Mexico.

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