The injection of energy and vitality into the Mexican presidential campaign by the student movement #YoSoy132, with elecion day on 1 July, raises a number of questions about where recent events may be headed. The central pillar of this diverse and, at times, inchoate mobilisation remains the campaign against media corruption allied with concern over electoral fraud linked to the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and its candidate Enrique Peña Nieto supported by Televisa, as detailed in my previous blog post on the struggle for democracy in Mexico.
For the movement itself, a protest outside Televisa Chapultepec in Mexico City unfolded on June 13, which crowns a series of demonstrations including the prominent march along Paseo de la Reforma to El Ángel de la Independencia, pictured. This recent protest, following assemblies at key public universities including the Universidad Nacional Autonóma de México (UNAM), was packed with important symbolism.
The ghosts of the past haunting the present that have been called forth by #YoSoy132 include the massacre of some 500 students by the Mexican state on 2 October 1968 at Tlatelolco; the Corpus Christi Massacre on 10 June 1971 at the hands of a state-financed paramilitary group known as Los Halcones; the repression of the San Salvador Atenco mobilisation, known as the ‘Popular Front in Defence of the Land’, in 2006; and the greatest electoral fraud in the history of the country in the form of the 1988 election of Carlos Salinas de Gortari.
This week, at the Televisa Chapultepec meeting, some of the constituent elements of #YoSoy132 affirmed the move toward a wider ‘citizens project’ against media corruption. The aim is to ‘Turn off the TV and turn on the truth’ as part of a collective mobilisation throughout society. As reported in La Jornada (14 June 2012), the meeting ended with the chants of ‘We are 132; we are all 132’.
For intellectuals such as Enrique Semo, the aim has been to highlight the national dimensions of #YoSoy132. Writing for Proceso in a succinct essay entitled, ‘Momento crucial’ (10 June 2012), he highlights his anticipation of the student movement as an independent subject rallying against the “limits of neoliberalism”. Once again, Mexican students are embedded in the deep roots of national conditions but with clear global parallels including this time the indignados in Spain, student protests in Britain and Quebec, Occupy Wall Street, and the Arab Spring as symbolised by the transition in Egypt and the taking of Tahrir Square. The ‘cage of fear’ in Mexico has been broken by its students. According to Semo,
the process has opened new possibilities for social movement that inevitably coincide with the discourse but, above all, with the practical position and integrity of the candidate of the Progressive Movement, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).
But more caution is cast by Patrick Cuninghame, a professor at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana – Xochimilco in Mexico City, in his first interview on recent events. Truly energised by #YoSoy132 and fully aware that there are open horizons as to its future development and trajectory, he is nevertheless cautious of AMLO and the challenges ahead. As Cuninghame recognises, ‘there are major social and political divides within the movement that the forces of reaction are going to work hard on to divide in these upcoming weeks . . . So, let’s hope that the movement holds together from the attacks of the forces of reaction from both the right and the institutional left’.
Without abandoning the resources of hope necessary for political action, it remains to be seen whether this really is the commencement of a ‘Mexican Spring’ in challenging neoliberalism and what longevity, or form, it may take in the near future. The challenge remains one of strengthening anti-capitalist struggle against neoliberalism and envisioning whether the movement of #YoSoy132 can mobilise its own right to the city and democracy as a political class-based demand.