Student protests in Mexico City have a long history. The most famous demonstration was the student massacre of 1968, when students gathered in Tlatelolco in Mexico City to protest police brutality and control. Shooting broke out from snipers hidden on rooftops in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas as well as the encroaching police force, killing up to 4,000 peacefully protesting students in the fray. Some have called this incident the Mexican Kent State. Only in the last decade did an official investigation occur regarding the massacre, NPR reports. Evidence showed that the massacre was a planned assault on the student movement meant to foment unrest so that police could undermine the demonstration.
Now Tlatelolco and the Plaza de las Tres Culturas looks to be at the center of a new student movement directed at the presidential election this year. Young protesters have been gathering in Mexico City over the course of the last week to demand change in what is perceived to be slanted and unfair media coverage of the elections.
Two central candidates look to take center stage during the July elections, Enrique Peņa Nieto from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (or PRI), and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, his leftist opponent. The PRI dominated Mexican politics for much of the twentieth century, and many reports link the PRI with continued government corruption in various states throughout Mexico.
The PRI remained in power for more than 70 years until 2000, when Vicente Fox won elections and shifted power out of the party’s hands. Now it looks possible that the PRI could regain power in the country. Peņa Nieto, himself the governor of the state of Mexico between 2005 and 2011, has been accused of government corruption and illegally funding his campaign, the Los Angeles Times reports.
His leftist opponent, Lopez Obrador, contends that Peņa Nieto has received preferential media treatment since long before the actual campaign began. And young protesters look to agree with Lopez Obrador’s assertions. Over the course of May, students banded together in various protests aimed directly at demanding changes in the media corruption and ousting Peņa Nieto.
A student protest from earlier this month at Iberoamerican University, in which students yelled at Peņa Nieto to leave the stage, showed the candidate’s true colors. He downplayed the protest and said that the students were only political distractions forced to go to the campaign event to cause trouble.
Just a few days later, a Youtube video was posted in which students show their university ID cards and defend their choice to protest the media coverage and Peņa Nieto. The video has received more than a million views.
Protests have continued to surge throughout the month. Thousands of students marched through Mexico City on Wednesday to lament the slanted coverage of the PRI candidate, according to the Washington Post. Some estimates put the number of youth protesters at 15,000.
Lopez Obrador has been supportive of the youthful unrest. CNN quotes the candidate as saying, “They are touching on a fundamental theme that has to do with the pretension of dominating the country through the almost absolute control of the media.” His quote alludes to the PRI’s continued corruption in media outlets. Many other commentators and students have viewed the peaceful and vibrant student protests with positivity.
It looks to continue to build over the next six weeks leading up to the presidential elections. Students plan to meet and organize the movement again this coming Saturday at Tlatelolco, the site of the 1968 student massacre. The movement, at this moment, has no single leader but appears to be fueled by social media sites.
While Lopez Obrador has been a critic of the establishment and fraudulent elections in the past, his place in the heart of the student movement is in no way guaranteed during the vote this summer. Still, many protesters and critics feel slightly down about the elections, certain that Peņa Nieto will win the election due to fraudulent practices, regardless of student actions.
Photo Credit: Yavidaxiu