30 June 2012
STUDENTS MARCH, DEFINE POSITION AND GOALS
Mexico's nascent #yosoy132 student movement marched today, hours before the July 1 Presidential elections, in an action that may have defined the movement. This author marched with them.
The action began in Mexico City's Plaza de las Tres Culturas, the site where at least 70 and possibly hundreds of Mexican students were massacred in 1968, on orders of the President. Groups from more than 20 major universities gathered in the Plaza to exchange messages and commemorate the students who gave their lives in the hope of democracy in their country.
Multiple media outlets, including ABC News, MTV and Pacifica Radio were present at the beginning rally. Unfortunately, none seemed to stay for the following march and event.
The students chose to march downtown to the Plaza de la Revolucion, which commemorates Mexico's 1910 revolution against dictatorship and the short democracy which followed. They then took a circuitous route through the city's main thoroughfares, arriving to a waiting crowd in Mexico City's grand public square, the Zocalo, at about 10:30.
I counted at least 7,500 leaving the Plaza and more likely 15,000 when we first reached downtown-- and the crowd continued to grow. As we marched, drivers frequently slowed to honk in support. More revealing, however, was the mood, slogans and behavior of the movement itself.
Organized into groups by university, each group began slogans and chants which rolled back and forth along the long line of the march, somewhat in Occupy "human microphone" style. The groups displayed remarkable ability to work together, and to pass on signals-- such as to lower volume so other groups' messages could be heard.
Certain messages became dominant and took over the assembled crowd. Shortly after leaving the Plaza, a simple slogan, "Mexico sin PRI," "Mexico without the PRI,' was introduced. It became the overarching slogan and theme of the night.
The PRI is the "Party" which took over in 1929 and imposed a one-party, Soviet-style state with significant oppression, including restrictions on media, speech and religion, the use of violence, murder, and kidnapping-- and of course, sham elections disguised as "democracy."
These students were clearly convinced that little had changed about the PRI, except, perhaps, a few of its methods. They were also clear, that they are afraid of a return of the PRI to power, and expect violence and repression.
Perhaps the above, is due to the fact that the student movement began, in part, due to Wikileaks posting a US State Department memo with similar concerns, particularly, that current PRI "front-runner" Pena Nieto was using millions in government funds to purchase positive news coverage and other media manipulation.
Another slogan came to stand out during the course of the march: "La lucha costa lo que costa." Colloquially translated: "Liberty must be paid for, no matter the price." Note that the students rarely spoke of "liberty" using the literal word-- more often, but still not primarily, of "freedom."
Their vocabulary, like that of the Czech student movement prior to Velvet Revolution and the escape from dark times it enabled, seems a little stilted. But the desire and determination of the students, seemed clear.
As we first approached downtown, darkness was falling, and the students began to light candles. Someone asked that we might march silently, and the message went up and down the line of students and was accepted.
Remarkably-- individuals in the crowd, we able to get passing traffic, moving in the other direction across a median, to stop honking. Thus we became a vigil, walking into the city's early evening. People gathered at the sides of streets to greet us, as if we were a parade.
Soon enough the chants and discussion began again, and for some time, we moved back and forth from this, to quiet and solitude. We marched through poor neighborhoods, and upscale.
After some hours, we reached the offices and broadcast tower of Televisa, the head of Mexico's effectively state-controlled television duopoly. Recently revealed evidence shows that Televisa operated a "war room" to maintain PRI candidate Pena Nieto's image, -- with assistance from the supposedly liberal US firm Blue State Digital.
Minutes earlier, I had done a quick crowd estimate. We had grown to something between 15,000 and 25,000.
With several hundred armed Federal Police in riot gear surrounding the Televisa buildings, and the crowd beginning to swarm around the buildings, the situation became tense. War drums were played-- the Federal Police, heavily outnumbered, and in poor formation, looked scared.
A student leader grabbed a megaphone: "Zocalo!" he said. "Do not begin any provocation.
Companions, proceed to the public square. We will gather again there. Act with conscience; do begin any provocation." Others fashioned megaphones from paper, and moved through the crowds, spreading this message.
Twenty minutes or a half-hour had passed in front of the television station, and the crowd, moved on.
We walked another half hour, and were within ten blocks of the Zocalo. The message rang out again with more seriousness: we are approaching the public square. Walk in silence.
And we did, the moments becoming more profound as conversation stopped and we looked at each other quietly. Mexico City's police, under control of the liberal and democratic government of the Federal District surrounding the City, cleared streets for us; a motorcycle escort joined us; some of the policemen saluted, in solidarity.
As the first of us entered the Square, the student leaders-- one from each major university-- asked the waiting crowd to become to become silent. Thousands greeted us, holding candles. The fifteen or so student leaders, on a small stage, held torches.
Some hundreds, took the candles they had carried from the Plaza, where Mexico's student movement and it's hopes had perished in 1968, and arranged them at the base of the large flag of Mexico near the center of the public square.
After an half-hour, the long line of student demonstrators from across Mexico, was still filtering into the Zocalo. One of the student leaders, broke her silence: "The violence of the PRI," she said, "silenced us in 1968."
"We will no longer be silenced."
Another sign, carried by many, but never spoken, said wonders: "Revolution? I am not not afraid."
In front of Televisa, three young women stood, holding placards with quotations from Edgar Allen Poe, Patrick Henry, and John Lennon. Merging them together: "Those who desire liberty, must be prepared to sacrifice their lives."
Throughout the march and assembly, some students carried poles, with towels stained red at the end-- drenched in blood, representing what was given by the students who died in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in 1968. The symbolism was obvious, the message, that these students were preparing, to give the same.
As the final event in the Zocalo proceeded, the leaders of the student movement spoke, detailing their plans and preparations. Notably, all but two of the speakers were young women, forceful and articulate-- perhaps an oddity given the sexism and machismo attributed to Mexican society.
In contrast to major media reports, the organization's leadership seemed highly organized, their co-ordination with each other effective, their plans detailed. They will meet again tomorrow afternoon (I will not disclose the location); they are already prepared for a fraudulent electoral result, and to take action in the streets on the Monday following the election.
Their resolve, seems genuine and great. The Mexican Spring, which some have begun to call the Orange Revolution-- Mexico's democratic revolution--, may just have begun.
Photography of the march, will follow.
"FAIR ELECTIONS" WHICH ARE NOT FAIR: EXPLAINING MEXICO'S ELECTION SYSTEM MESS
After more than six years of studying Mexico's elections, I want to describe what's wrong in the morass in relatively quick, clear terms.
Imagine that a poll observer sees a vote tally written wrong, and brings this to the attention of a party official. The party official creates a dispute. There are two other parties in the election-- they vote against him.
It doesn't matter what the issue is, that's considered valid and done in Mexico.
Imagine that the electoral authorities know that people are paying for votes, for instance, they know that specific people are promising cash to individuals who use a cell phone to photograph their ballot choice for a specific party. Or someone is paying for voter ID cards-- which what it takes to vote. Or someone is organizing a pyramid scheme to buy votes, telling people, hey, I'll give you 500 pesos for your vote, but even better, I'll give you 50 pesos for every person you bring in, and another 10 pesos for everyone they bring in...
Well, this is illegal. The Mexican constitution says, it is forbidded to purchase votes. But imagine, that what every elections official says, is "we don't have the authority to do anything. The law doesn't give us any power to stop this. No where, does our procedures manual say, there's anything we can do about it."
You don't need to imagine. That's exactly what Mexico's local electoral officials believe, and what the Federal Elections Authority (IFE) says, and what the National Elections Court (TJEPF) and the Mexican Supreme Court have upheld.
Let's make this very clear. When the authorities above say that an election was "fair" and "vaild," they mean "the procedures were followed." They mean "there are no procedural violations, according to how our rulebook says things should happen, which would change the outcome."
That's what they said to AMLO in 2006, when he "claimed fraud."
What their legalistic position doesn't mean, however, is that fraud didn't occur. They don't even mean that there isn't evidence of widespread vote buying, or other irregularities, that are glaringly obvious. They mean-- "narrowly," as it is put-- that our very particular rules were followed.
They mean that, if one party's representative raised a problem at a polling place, and the other two parties voted her down, that's "fair." That's "legal" and "according to the law," and no matter what the problem, or what the evidence of irregularity-- there's nothing to be done about it.
They mean that even if we can see widespread evidence of vote buying, if there are no specific legal procedures to stop it-- in Mexico's Soviet-inspired "you must be granted permission" legal system, that means, there must be a specific official who is explicitly given the ability to stop cell-phone based vote buying-- then vote buying is fair.
Many of my examples are from the 2012 elections. A website, Contamos, has been gathering video and other evidence of such elections fraud, and amassed a great deal. We expect much more to be gathered during the day.
The Federal Electoral Agency (IFE)'s position is that this is not fraud.
And now you may understand, another part of what Mexico's Orange Revolution, is fighting against.
This is a brief. More detailed analysis of the electoral and political situation will appear if possible.