Mexico's #Iam132 student protesters weigh next moves
- 18 July 2012
- From the section Latin America & Caribbean
During Mexico's presidential election, a group of university students voiced their frustration at what they saw as biased media coverage. Their movement, born on social media and known as #YoSoy132 (I am 132), shook up a staid campaign - but what now for the protesters?
"Turn off the stupid TV, turn on the truth," was the call as students marched in their thousands in the Mexican capital and other towns and cities in May and June.
The target of their anger was a supposed alliance between the country's biggest media outlet, Televisa, and Enrique Pena Nieto, front-runner and candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which had ruled Mexico for much of the 20th Century.
The students' rage at what they saw as unfair media coverage widened to include allegations of vote-buying and other irregularities during the election itself.
Mexico is now awaiting a ruling by the electoral court on the validity of the 1 July election, which was won by Mr Pena Nieto.
At the same time, members of the #YoSoyy132 movement are deliberating their group's future course.
Some of its leading members see the need for reorganisation.
"We already know what we want in the long term - to awaken society's political consciousness and to democratise the media. We now need to figure out how, and in order to define that we have been working in student assemblies," says student Ari Santillan in Mexico City.
The movement held its first national assembly days after the election, aware the next steps would be crucial for its political survival.
The first goal, activists say, is to outline an agenda that tackles issues of a wider public interest.
"We know that we need to look at broader topics to keep the support of the Mexican society," student Ignacio Martinez told the BBC.
"But we want to keep the original spirit of the group that was born non-partisan."
But many are concerned the student movement will have to compromise and search for allies if it is to enter the political mainstream.
"They should remain independent rather than defining alliances. But this is just wishful thinking, I don´t think their voices will rise above other groups that know how to handle political battles," says Roger Bartra, professor emeritus at the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
"They are trapped in this dichotomy - they need to find allies to survive but those allies might devour them."
It has only existed for just over two months, but #YoSoy132 has already experienced serious splits.
Some students left saying that, despite its non-partisan character, the movement had tacitly aligned itself with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, candidate for the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). He is challenging the election result.
Others see the group as too close to students' interests and have created the broader National Front Against the Imposition (of Pena Nieto), an offspring of the #132 that now is going its own way.
"The movement has exceeded the #132 goals. The National Front we now have is more inclusive, it welcomes everyone, from workers to party affiliates - not just students," says Herz Jossa, who left #132.
The #YoSoy132 movement was born on the streets, but members have acknowledged the need for "a new era" in which public demonstrations are just one part of their activities.
"Taking the streets is a sign of political muscle, but that's not all we do. We are thinking of engaging citizens in workshops about public media, for example, and that's just one initiative of many," says Mr Santillan.
They are also trying to draft a #YoSoy132 bill that would regulate media access and promote alternative ownership of radio and TV networks, although the debate about how they could move such a proposal forward is still in its early stages.
Mexican competition authorities have offered to involve and inform the group about the granting of a broadcasting licence for a third free-to-air television network.
"To survive as a movement, they would need to take part in the new government, in areas such as youth policy. There is a path that they can follow to translate their activism into political participation," says Prof Alfredo Nateras at UNAM in Mexico City.
But that may be a challenge in itself.
The electoral court is likely to confirm Mr Pena Nieto as the next Mexican president.
A youth movement that contested his victory might not be the PRI's first choice of dialogue partner.