Occupy the Alibi
Election or Imposition?
The dinosaurs rule Mexico once again.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, held power in Mexico from 1929 to 2000, using strategies of intimidation, corruption and outright voter fraud to maintain its position as the country's leader. After the opposition party PAN took the presidency in 2000, the PRI became known as "the dinosaurs," representing the antiquated, undemocratic system of the past.
Except the past is now the future.
Enrique Peña Nieto, the PRI candidate, was named the next President of Mexico following the July 1 elections. And "named" is the correct term here—not "elected." Thousands of reports provide evidence that the PRI was up to their old tricks on election day.
The website contamos.org.mx called on citizens to send in cell phone pictures and other reports of electoral irregularities. They received more than 3,000 reports, many of which have been independently confirmed. The website features photographic evidence of (among other things) pre-marked ballots and PRI functionaries voting multiple times.
Screenshots of the Federal Election Institute's website seemed to show votes disappearing as the official vote count was updated in real time. And, perhaps most damning of all, a University of Texas—El Paso professor appears to have proven an impossible statistical relationship in the vote counts as they progressed through election night, suggesting the official results were fabricated on a nationwide scale.
This news may come as a surprise to my colleagues in the nation's mass media. The New York Times, for example, paid little attention to allegations of voter fraud but couldn't make it past the first paragraph of their post-election-day article without stopping to praise Peña Nieto's "smooth tongue and good looks even men compliment."
Even more disingenuously, the Times article skims over Peña Nieto's sordid history with the Mexican media in general and TV network Televisa in particular, noting only that Peña Nieto's "opponents accused [Televisa] of biased coverage in the presidential race, which executives have denied."
The problem here is that it wasn't just Peña Nieto's opponents that accused Televisa of biased coverage. It was also the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, working off documents leaked by a Televisa employee that detailed payments given to the network by the PRI in return for favorable coverage. Wikileaks "Cablegate" files originally uncovered by the website Narco News show that the U.S. knew Peña Nieto was paying off the press as far back as 2009.
Of course, just because the Gray Lady is blind doesn't mean the Mexican populace has to be. The student movement #yosoy132 has refused to recognize the PRI's claim to power. The movement sprang to life several months before the "election" to oppose Peña Nieto and what they saw as an attempt to impose a President on the country.
The history of #yosoy132 is perhaps the best story of this year's election cycle, either here or in Mexico. It starts on May 11, less than two months before election day, when Peña Nieto gave a very bad answer to a question posed to him at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. Students at the university asked Peña Nieto to explain his decision, as governor of the State of Mexico, to order the brutal police repression of a nonviolent protest in the city of San Salvador Atenco. As a result of Peña Nieto's order, state and federal police killed two young men and sexually assaulted more than two dozen women.
The candidate responded to the question with astounding arrogance, claiming that he merely exercised his "executive right" to "restore order and peace" to the city. He also claimed Mexico's Supreme Court had later validated his decision—an outright lie, as the Court's official report, titled " San Salvador Atenco (abuso policial y violación sexual / police abuse and sexual violation)" noted "grave human rights violations" in the police actions at Atenco.
The students' reaction made for great video, captured by dozens of cell phone cameras at the scene. They shouted down the presumed next President of Mexico, and he actually had to flee the University, trailed by hundreds of jeering students.
The next day, the majority of the nation's press carried the story that a few protesters, paid by the opposition party, had tried to assault the President. The general consensus on TV was that it was actually a political success for Peña Nieto, because it made his opponents look so weak and desperate.
But the students wouldn't let this version of events stand. They released a video called "131 Alumnos de la Ibero responden (131 Students from the Ibero respond)" featuring, yes, 131 students from the Universidad Iberoamericana. They showed their faces, gave their names and student numbers and vowed that they were against Peña Nieto all on their own, without being paid by anyone.
The video quickly hit more than 1 million views, and "#yosoy132" began trending on Twitter. As in "They're 131 people against Peña Nieto, and I'm 132."
The following week, a massive march hit the streets in Mexico City under the #yosoy132 banner. The movement quickly exploded across the country, and there are now more than 200 cities with active #yosoy132 cells. I had the opportunity to march with them in Chihuahua and can confirm that they really are a student movement and really don't make money from protesting.
The movement's main pillars include opposition to the PRI and opposition to the mass media (the latter of which we desperately need more of on this side of the border). The movement has grown dramatically since the election, drawing people to the streets to declare their refusal to recognize Peña Nieto as President.
With luck, they may end up being the asteroid that finally wipes out the dinosaurs.
Andrew Beale is a participant in (Un)occupy Albuquerque, but he does not speak on behalf of the movement.
The views expressed are solely those of the author.