As I post this item Mexicans are getting ready to vote in the July 1 Presidential elections. For those who want to follow the election day as it unfolds and track the impact of the results- there are a number of useful web sources. Aljazeera has a very attractive web page with background materials and a blog that will follow the election day voting: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/spotlight/mexicodecides/
The Facebook page of Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) at the University of California, Berkeley will also be following developments from the Monday after the election results are known. The CLAS Facebook page is an excellent page to browse for all kinds of Latin American issues http://www.facebook.com/pages/Center-for-Latin-American-Studies-UC-Berkeley/162401671049
One of the most striking developments in the run-up to the July elections has been the sudden emergence of a new youth movement known as #Yosoy132 or #I Am132, a reference to the university in Mexico City where this movement began. On May 11th when the candidate of the PRI, Enrique Peña Nieto (known by his initials as EPN), visited the campus of the staunchly middle class Jesuit university, the Iberoamericana, an institution with a fine academic profile but not previously noted for its history of activism, hundreds of students gave the candidate a rowdy reception. The hostility shown to Peña Nieto led to PRI accusations that the student protestors were ‘outsiders’, ‘gangsters’ and not genuine Ibero students. To prove the falsity of this claim Ibero students posted videos in which they displayed their student ID cards and denied that they were porros y acarreados (thugs and people bussed in for the protest). There were 131 videos submitted and once loaded on to YouTube the movement went viral.
For the last seven weeks the #Yosoy132 movement has spread through the national capital and major cities in regional Mexico, reshaping public debate with its calls for the establishment of genuine media democracy. While the movement has not identified itself with any candidate it has focused student and youth anger at the old ruling party, the PRI and its candidate Peña Nieto whom the #Yosoy132 activists accuse of fraud, a cover up of violent repression in the State of Mexico (where EPN was governor) and receiving privileged treatment from the two major television networks in Mexico, Televisa and TV Azteca.
Whether the movement will survive the elections and develop a lasting presence in Mexican civil society is unclear, but the movement’s astonishingly rapid growth and impact on urban Mexico cannot be denied. #Yosoy132 has received considerable attention in the world media but until recently most of the analysis and video material has not been available in English. Now there is a history of the emergence of the movement available in a fascinating documentary (with English subtitles) produced by VICE-Mexico and available at: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/vice-news/yo-soy-132
Front-running candidate of the PRI, Enrique Peña Nieto and his (alleged) controller, former President Carlos Salinas
Piñatas are the papier-mâché puppets and figures beloved by Mexican children. They can be bought in most markets and on the streets almost everywhere. There have been no shortage of political piñatas over the years, though, and people with a long memory will remember the piñatas representing Mexico’s controversial former president Carlos Salinas (1988-1994) which famously became targets of many Mexicans fed up with violence, corruption and the political killings that tainted his last year in office. Now, in the run-up to the presidential elections of July 1st a group of savvy Mexican entrepreneurs have launched piñatas with the heads of the main presidential candidates: the front-runner (according to most polls) Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI which held power in one guise or another between 1929 and 2000, followed in second place by Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the center-left PRD; the candidate of the governing conservative PAN, Josefina Vázquez Mota; and Gabriel Quadri of the Partido Verde, a green candidate standing for a party that is politically allied to the old PRI. According to the manufacturers the piñatas for Peña Nieto and López Obrador have sold best. And for supporters of the student movement #Yosoy132 which crashed onto the political scene just 7 weeks ago with its lively social media campaigns against Peña Nieto and the corrupt television and radio monopolies like Televisa – there has been a wind up toy showing the telegenic Peña Nieto with former president Carlos Salinas concealed inside his head and body.
The US film maker Pamela Yates’s new documentary, Granito: How to Nail A Dictator has a new ending added for its premier launch in the U.S. on the PBS public television network on June 28th. The documentary deals with the investigation and bringing to trial of General Efraín Ríos Montt, the most important architect of the genocide carried out in Guatemala in the early 1980s. The new ending centres on Ríos Montt’s house arrest and court appearance on the genocide charge. Ríos Montt is the first former head of state in Latin America to be charged with genocide. Skylight Pictures, the documentary’s producer, along with its US broadcast partner POV have decided to stream Granito and its prequel in their English and Spanish versions. To view these documentaries visit:
To read an interview with Pamela Yates visit http://www.pbs.org/pov/granito/interview.php?ref=povhpc3
If you’re curious about how much of the Wikileaks material dealing with Latin America has made its way into the Latin American press, you might like to have a look at the web site of Brazilian organisation, Publica, the first non-profit investigative journalism organisation in that country. Its website is http://apublica.org/category/english/
Here is how Publica announced its overall goals and its handling of Wikileaks material on Brazil:
” In 2011 Publica reviewed all WikiLeals cables from Brazil to write and publish the stories that had been left out by daily newspapers. Just a few months after its foundation, Publica gathered a team of 15 volunteer journalists to review the documents that were still unpublished. The task force published over 50 articles that were picked up by the Brazilian media though a creative commons license.
Publica is the first not-for-profit investigative journalism center in Brazil. Founded by a team of women journalists, it aims to bring journalism back to its essence: public service.
While Brazil is seeking a proeminent role in the international arena, we feel that good journalism should be encouraged to monitor our govenments and the powers that be. Good, non-partisan investigative journalism without any ideological interference is essencial to strengthen our democracy. That’s what Publica will do.
Like many successful investigative centers worldwide, Publica partners up with national and international media outlets, organizations, and independent journalists to be able to produce long and short-term investigative projects in Brazil. Our articles are often translated and republished by websites such as the Huffington Post, in the US.
The reporters that coordinate Publica – Marina Amaral and Natalia Viana – have amongst them three of the most prestigious national award for Human Rights Reporting, and two nominations for Woman Press Award for online reporting.
The word Publica, in Portuguese, is a feminine adjective. It means everything that belongs to the public.”