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With Mexico's election results upheld, what's next for the YoSoy132 movement?

The youth movement that emerged in opposition to the media's campaign coverage of President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto is redefining its message and working to give new life to Mexico's democracy.

By Correspondent / September 11, 2012

Members of the anti-PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) youth opposition movement 'Yosoy132' ('I am 132') shout slogans against the party and electoral authorities during a protest march in Mexico City August 26.

Henry Romero/Reuters

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MEXICO CITY

When student protestors took to the streets after a government tribunal dismissed charges of fraud and upheld the results of Mexico’s July presidential election last month, they said they mourned “the death of democracy.” But not the end of their movement.

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Known for its Twitter hash tag, #YoSoy132 emerged before this summer’s presidential election in opposition to what the students called favoritism by the television media for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto. Mr. Peña Nieto ultimately won the election with 38 percent of the vote in a field of four.

The election now settled, many are questioning what YoSoy132 will do next. Their No. 1 goal remains fair access to information and the “democratization” of Mexico’s media, according to a message emitted to coincide with President Felipe Calderón’s sixth and final state of the union address earlier this month. But the ad-hoc student movement, criticized early on for its lack of organization and focus, is still struggling to create a unified message, leaving some to question its significance and potential to endure in Mexico today.

“The problem with the movement is not whether it continues to have a voice; it’s that it has too many,” says Carlos Bravo Regidor, professor of political studies at Mexico City’s CIDE research center. “The internal diversity at times appears to overpower [the group’s] capacity to deliver coherent and effective messages.” 

From nonpolitical marches against media manipulation to the “taking” of government buildings in the state of Veracruz to behind-the-scenes work on proposals for public policy, the private and public university students who consider themselves a part of the YoSoy132 movement differ as much on method as message.

That diversity is a source of strength, says Antonio Attolini, a political science student at Mexico City’s private Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM).

“It’s always a strength to have a lot of voices that come from different perspectives,” says Mr. Attolini, who has emerged as a sort of articulator of a movement that has no leadership and no spokesperson. “This fuels us, and it’s necessary in a democracy as hurt and weak as Mexico’s. It’s a rarity that a movement like this exists. No one is used to it.”

A youth identity

The PRI ruled Mexico for seven decades in a pseudo-democracy in which elections were often marred by opacity and fraud, but it lost its hold on presidential power in 2000 for the first time since its 1929 founding. As Peña Nieto rose in the polls this year and many media outlets treated his victory as a foregone conclusion, some Mexicans feared a return to the cronyism that characterized the PRI of the past. The young, telegenic Peña Nieto promised voters he leads an evolved PRI "of today," and analysts say his victory is proof that Mexico's democracy is stronger than ever. 

YoSoy132 emerged last spring after the PRI discredited student protesters at a campaign speech Peña Nieto gave at the private Iberoamerican University in Mexico City. Party leaders suggested the students weren’t students at all but agitators bussed in to cause trouble. The television media echoed the party’s claims.

So a student at the university posted a video compilation online in which 131 other students, showing their student IDs, professed their legitimate opposition to Peña Nieto. The moniker “I Am 132” was born as people voiced support via social networks.

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