Mexico: protests continue to target TV’s favorite candidate

Tens of thousands marched through the center of Mexico City on June 10 in a festive protest against former México state governor Enrique Peña Nieto, the frontrunner in the July 1 presidential election, and against the television networks that the demonstrators said were promoting his candidacy. The march was the latest in a series of protests since a new student movement widely known as “#YoSoy132” (“I’m number 132”) appeared suddenly in May in opposition to Peña Nieto and the likely return of his centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to power; the PRI dominated Mexican politics for 71 years until losing the presidency in 2000. The capital’s police estimated the crowd at 90,000 on June 10, about twice the police estimate for a similar march on May 19. (La Jornada, Mexico, June 11)

Some 600 Mexico City youths attended a protest performance the evening of June 13 outside the Chapultepec Avenue offices of Televisa, Mexico’s most powerful television network. The youths used one of the building’s walls to project videos showing various incidents for which they blamed the PRI, including the 1968 massacre of students and their supporters at the Tlatelolco housing project in Mexico City; the suspected fraud in 1988 through which former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) is thought to have defeated center-left candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano; and the violent repression of campesinos in San Salvador Atenco in México state in May 2006, when Peña Nieto was governor. Students have also been carrying their message to the subway system with political theater. (LJ, June 14)

Students aren’t the only people questioning Peña Nieto’s favorable coverage in Mexico’s media. The Mexico correspondent of the British daily The Guardian has pointed out that US diplomats were secretly suspicious of the media coverage and the opinion polls when he was still a governor. In a confidential Jan. 26, 2009 cable from the US embassy, released last year by the WikiLeaks group, Deputy Chief of Mission Leslie Bassett wrote that “analysts and PRI party leaders alike have repeatedly expressed to [US political officers] their belief that [Peña Nieto] is paying media outlets under the table for favorable news coverage, as well as potentially financing pollsters to sway survey results.” (The Guardian, June 11)

On June 15, Camila Vallejo Dowling, one of the leaders of last year’s massive student strike in Chile, visited the Xochimilco campus of Mexico City’s Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM). She told an audience of hundreds of students that Latin America needed a network of the various social movements, “with a common platform of horizons for struggle, which doesn’t imply forgetting or marginalizing local demands.” At a forum earlier in the day she warned that activists needed to give up the old forms in which “one demands of the usual people changes which we know they are never going to carry out…. We still haven’t resolved how we are approaching the dispute over power; there is no full awareness of this process.” (LJ, June 16)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 17.

See our last post on Mexico.