Previously in the throes of a predictable election campaign, the Mexican political scene now faces new doubts and questions. Comfortably leading polls over the last few months was Enrique Peña Nieto the leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which prior to 2006 held power for 71 years. Described by many as the fresh new face of a party that kept a near dictatorial control over the country, Peña Nieto has been severely criticized for leading a celebrity campaign with little substance.
Charged with being out of touch with the realities of the average Mexican, the election favourite has made a series of gaffs. When unable to recall the price of corn tortillas, a staple food and crucial economic indicator for Mexicans, he meagrely stated this was because he was not the “lady of the house”. The presidential hopeful also faced strong protests at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, where he was confronted by questions regarding his handling of the “Atenco” incident. This saw violent police tactics and heavy-handed clashes with local villagers of Atenco, events that were also criticised by Amnesty International.
…which is seen as corrupt and interconnected…
The lack of subsequent media coverage of the Iberoamericana protests has given birth to a protest movement termed ‘Yosoy132’. Originally an Internet campaign begun by students at the Universidad Iberoamericana, it has since become a national phenomenon, with various marches having been undertaken across the country. ‘Yosoy132’ not only called for the reform of a partisan media but also of the larger Mexican status quo, which is seen as corrupt and interconnected.
In a similar vain to the Occupy Movement and the Spanish Indignados, the protesters do not endorse any single political party or candidate but are instead rallying against a decaying establishment. Though the movement has been most vocally against Peña Nieto, it has also rejected the candidacy of the right wing National Action Party’s (PAN) Josefina Vásquez Mota. The first female representative of the ruling party has been unable to overcome the criticism PAN has faced at the escalating violence caused by the drug trade and has even experienced dissension from within the party. Ex-President Vicente Fox recently endorsed Peña Nieto by urging all to unite around the clear winner and it is publicly known that neither did president Felipe Calderón did back her as his successor. The party hierarchy dismissed Fox’s statement but nonetheless it acts as a clear indication of the mutual interests shared by establishment figures.
…he was cheated from victory…
If recent polls are to be trusted, the ‘Yosoy132’ has galvanised the popularity of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). With policies that follow in the mould of left leaning ex-Brazilian President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, Obrader is posited as the only alternative willing to combat corporate interest groups. It is popularly believed that he was cheated from victory in the closely fought presidential elections of 2006, after which he himself refused to concede loss, instead leading marches in protest of the results. The ‘Yosoy132’ continues to grow in momentum and influence but whether Obrader can overcome the apparently large gap projected by the country’s questionable media is still unclear.