Mexican students protest 'biased' election coverage
MEXICO CITY -- Thousands of university students poured into the streets of Mexico City on Wednesday for the second time in a week to protest the way the upcoming presidential election is being run and, more specifically, covered in the Mexican media.
They are especially incensed that victory by Enrique Peña Nieto on July 1 is often portrayed as a fait accompli. About 15,000 (by city officials' count) people gathered at the controversial Pillar of Light monument (seen by many here as a government boondoggle) and marched down the iconic Reforma Boulevard.
They stopped outside the headquarters of the giant Televisa broadcasting network to demand fairer and more pluralistic TV news. "We are not one, we are not 100. Televisa, count us!" some chanted.
The protesters came from a wide range of universities: public, private, leftist, rightist, Catholic. And while many were decidedly anti-Peña Nieto -- made clear in their banners and signs -- the protest appears to go beyond pure partisan politics and represent a broader questioning of Mexico's status quo.
Television and newspaper media are concentrated in a few hands in Mexico, and many of the demonstrators believe they are skewed in favor of Peña Nieto and the return to presidential power of his Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. The PRI ruled single-handedly for seven decades until being ousted in 2000.
A feeling of being left out and a general disillusionment with a system long plagued by corruption had led many of Mexico's young voters to sit out this campaign. Wednesday's protest, and another one over the weekend, may not be enough to turn the tide, but the movement is attracting attention.
“The real miracle is that a complete generation that was condemned to apathy, to only observe, and to individualism is once again making the nation's destiny their own," said Mexican writer Paco Ignacio Taibo II, who attended Wednesday's march.
“I came here to ask for transparency in the media," said Chloe Nava, a student from Panamerican University. "It seems we need to rescue that instinct as citizens."
The protests were galvanized by a visit Peña Nieto made this month to the elite Ibero-American University in Mexico City. Students there heckled him and he had to cut the visit short -- unusual because his campaign appearances are typically highly choreographed. Media coverage, however, gave the incident short shrift, at least in the view of the youths, and Peña Nieto's campaign dismissed it, claiming the protesters were political plants and not students at all.
In reaction, 131 Ibero students went on YouTube to prove they were in fact students and had participated in attempting to shout down the candidate. Now the protest movement is calling itself "I am 132," meaning everyone joins the group of 131.
Plans are in the works for additional demonstrations, members say.
-- Claudia Ocaranza and Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: Students in Mexico City protest both the possible return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to presidential power and what they perceive as slanted coverage of the election campaign. Credit: Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press