Mexico City, June 30. It was May 11, less than two months before Mexico’s July 1 presidential election. Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico from 1929 until 2000, was well ahead in the polls. He strolled in to have a chat with some middle class students at the private Ibero-American University in Mexico City.
He expected an easy ride. After all, these weren’t the rabble rousers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. These affluent students would be tired of the ruling National Action Party (PAN), which had plunged Mexico into a drug war that had claimed over 55,000 lives. And they certainly weren’t leftist supporters of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).
But what Peña Nieto got was a very rough ride indeed. The students heckled him. They mocked him. They faced him behind masks of the notoriously corrupt Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the PRI president from 1988 to 1994.
Peña Nieto went and hid in the washroom. As his handlers hustled him away, hundreds of students openly accused him of corruption and a poor track record when he was governor of the State of Mexico, the country’s most populous.
Videos of the event went viral. Peña Nieto’s team accused the hecklers of being leftist plants. 131 Ibero students countered with YouTube videos showing their university ID cards. The news began trending on Twitter, with young people around Mexico – and the world – claiming solidarity as the 132nd dissenter. #YoSoy132 (I am 132) was born.
Tlatelolco - June 30
The movement didn’t stop there. It pressed its three main demands: security and human rights; education; and the democratization of the media.