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The 'Mexican spring:' A new student movement stirs in Mexico

#YoSoy132, a burgeoning student movement in Mexico, is calling for citizens to demand more of their politicians and institutions.

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The students have since led marches on the streets and to government offices, garnering thousands of supporters. They have also marched to the Televisa network station, which students say has portrayed Peña Nieto in a favorable light – both now and during his stint as the governor of Mexico state.

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‘A wake up call to candidates’

Event organizers say that representatives from more than 35 universities were present at yesterday's meeting. “Mexico, Mexico, Mexico!” they chanted.

Lizette Adauta, a 22-year-old UNAM student wearing glasses and a pink backpack with a water bottle, hops on the university bus outside the social work building where she is studying, and heads to a mass field in the shadow of the library where the university typically gathers for protests. She says this is her first meeting of #YoSoy132, but she has been following it on social media sites, especially Facebook. “The television networks have manipulated all the information about Peña Nieto,” she says.

The broadcasters say they are, as required by law, giving all candidates equal treatment, but the broadcast industry has long been criticized for being concentrated in a few hands and aligning with the conservative and business classes. 

The movement is non-partisan, but it is decidedly anti-Peña Nieto. Some signs read “No to the PRI-nosaurs,” a reference to the “dinosaurs” of the old authoritarian regime that only lost control of Mexico in 2000. Another reads, “the PRI will not return.” While many students interviewed yesterday say they are either not voting or voting for the left, none spoke of support for the PRI or the ruling National Action Party (PAN).

This represents the strongest public pushback against Peña Nieto since the campaign began in March. He has enjoyed double-digit leads over his nearest rivals for months. He still has a wide margin, but a poll released by the firm Mitofsky this week showed that his support has fallen 2.3 percentage points – to 35.6 percent – from a poll taken earlier this month. However, his nearest rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), is still far behind at 21.7 percent.

The student protests have stirred up a campaign that critics say has seen more in-fighting than proposed policies. In the first presidential debate last month, many criticized all candidates for attacking and defending one another, instead of focusing on the needs and hopes of the populace.

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