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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.

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This is the first time since 1968 – when the government’s often brutal repression of student protests culminated in a massacre at Tlatelolco plaza – that students have united in a movement defined by their youth, says Helen Varela Guinot, director of the Iberoamerican University’s Department of Social Sciences and Politics. 

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Students have participated in politics in the decades since the ‘60s, Ms. Varela Guinot says, but they haven't again discovered a group identity or defined their participation as a mass movement until now.

“YoSoy132 radically changed the perspective of young people and their position toward politics,” Varela Guinot says.

A youth that is politically aware and involved only serves to strengthen a society that has become more openly critical of its government, she says.  

Political impact

But despite the new political awakening among youth inspired by YoSoy132, Mr. Bravo Regidor questions how, without leadership, the movement can effectively achieve its varied goals.

These goals include a more “just” and “sustainable” economic model, a new approach to national security, universal health care, and a “transformation” in which social movements have a greater voice in politics. YoSoy132 expresses broad disagreement with Mexico’s current path (for example, the use of the military to fight organized crime) and professes that its own “fight is in favor of health, justice, liberty, and democracy.”

“I think its impact could be in constituting a sort of nonpartisan social opposition to Peña Nieto’s government,” Bravo Regidor says, although maintaining political autonomy and its own identity “is not going to be easy, frankly.”

That’s evident in the flocking of many students to events held by second-place candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, although the movement has been explicitly nonpartisan and did not collectively support a candidate during the election. On Sunday, students wearing YoSoy132 T-shirts arrived at Mexico City’s Zocalo plaza – not en masse, but individually or with friends – to hear Mr. Lopez Obrador speak. He announced his break with the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which supported him during the past two elections, and plans to create a new party out of an already existing political organization. In addition, he vowed to launch a national campaign to “democratize” the media – a key demand of the YoSoy132 movement.

“The election was a fraud,” says Manuel Pintor Trejo, a student at the Iberoamerican University, as he passed out white flags printed with “R.I.P. Democracy” and the YoSoy132 logo. “We aren’t going to sit back like the adults who are resigned to accept the PRI.”

The PRI's reaction to the original student protests at the Iberoamerican University – first discrediting the students, then later ignoring their call for a third, student-directed debate in which the other three candidates participated – was seen by many in the movement as regressive in the context of Mexico's democracy.

Stopping short of saying whether he voted for Lopez Obrador, Mr. Trejo says, "We support a change."

Peña Nieto officially takes office Dec. 1 and he has already announced a series of proposed reforms, including expanding the reach of the government's freedom of information agency. Given that the country's electoral tribunal dismissed the PRD's complaint of fraud, the students who oppose the election results will now have to take a different tack, says Varela Guinot.

“What remains to be seen is how they continue to mobilize around other issues,” she says.

Attolini admits he doesn’t know exactly where the movement is going, but “the important point is that YoSoy132 can be you or me acting to change our community.” 

“People are always making demands,” he says. “It’s time to act. We need to offer a new path.”

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