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Mexico’s unwanted president

November 30, 2012

THE students of the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City have introduced a new tourist walk in the campus. They call it the Penatour. Visitors follow the path taken by Enrique Pena Nieto in May, when he was running for the presidency. The climax is the toilet where Pena Nieto sought refuge from hundreds of protesters.

The university (known as Ibero) is one of the country’s most exclusive private education centres; it is where the Mexican elites educate their children.

It is hard to describe the national shock that was felt when students of that university angrily confronted Pena Nieto, accusing him of violently repressing the peasants of San Salvador Atenco in 2006, when he was governor of the state of Mexico.

When he defiantly claimed that he had acted in the national interest, the anger spread. Students throughout Mexico organised a movement against him and the media that supported his presidential candidacy. Their movement was nicknamed YoSoy132 (Iam132), after a viral video featuring 131 Ibero students.

In the presidential election last July, Pena Nieto was proclaimed winner amid allegations that he had bought votes and received dubious campaign funding. An electoral tribunal found that the elections were “authentic and fair”, but protesters have not been convinced.

In alliance with several workers’ and peasants’ organisations, the students formed the National Convention Against the Imposition (CNI). Last week thousands marched in the city of Tula to launch a campaign of nonviolent resistance against Pena Nieto’s election. Wherever he has since visited abroad,  expat Mexican students have staged protests.

In Mexico mass protests are planned to mark Pena Nieto’s inauguration as president on Saturday (1DEC). That same day, several opposition politicians close to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — the leftist candidate who lost the election — intend to protest inside parliament as the new president is sworn in.

A few miles from the chamber, the Movimiento de Renovacion Nacional will hold a protest rally. Morena is the mass movement formed by Lopez Obrador, who resigned from the Partido de la Revolucion Democratica to establish an organisation closer to his political views.

To avoid unpleasant surprises in his inauguration ceremony, Pena Nieto will leave the chamber immediately after he has been sworn in.

Instead of addressing parliament, he will go to the National Palace, where he will celebrate his victory in the company of heads of government, diplomats, members of several royal families, religious leaders and celebrities.

A few days before Pena Nieto takes the mantle of power, a military siege-style cordon has been placed around the building of San Lazaro, headquarters of the Chamber of Deputies to ‘protect’ the new president. Four metro stations, several metrobus stops, and many surrounding streets have been closed. Marcelo Ebrard, mayor of Mexico City, said that this sends out the wrong signal: “I had never seen a show of this size — what are they afraid of?”

No Mexican city has yet witnessed a significant celebration of Pena Nieto’s victory. Instead, a mixture of discontent and scepticism towards his government is palpable throughout the country. — The Guardian, London

Luis Hernandez Navarro is the opinion editor of Mexico’s La Jornada.