On Sunday, June 10, at 12:30 pm, thousands of students of the new movement “I am 132”, along with groups and individuals in solidarity, left the Mexico City Zócalo for the Angel of Independence in a high energy march with several different batucadas and a festive atmosphere. People shouted “Peña get out!”, “We’ll never forget Atenco!”, “You see it, you feel it, Peña Nieto won’t be President”, and “Anyone not jumping up and down is Peña”. Just days after the publication in the British daily newspaper The Guardian about rates charged by Televisa for improving the image of Enrique Peña Nieto and about its campaign against presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the protests against the powerful media giant have heated up.
After holding a rally at the Angel of Independence for more than 3 hours, many demonstrators marched back to the Zócalo to watch the presidential debate together. Although the new movement defines itself as anti-Peña and non-partisan, some people didn’t hesitate to push their candidate López Obrador.
This was not the only march held on June 10. As has been the case for decades, another enormous student march left the Casco de Santo Tomás for the Zócalo to demand justice for the massacre of 120 students at the hand of the paramilitary group known as “The Hawks” in the streets of Mexico City 41 years ago. Dozens of people participated in both marches on Sunday. It should be remembered that one of the people responsible for the massacre, known as “el halconazo” and also as the “Maundy Thursday Massacre”, was General Manuel Díaz Escobar, trained at military bases in the United States and at the School of the Americas during the Cold War, and another was ex President of Mexico and CIA agent Luis Echevarría, exonerated of his crimes by the Mexican government 3 years ago.
In addition to the ubiquitous “I am 132” signs, the banners and posters carried in the march to the Angel bore phrases including “My dear country, I realized that you are expecting me to do something, and here I am, at your service.”; “Peña Nieto murderer, torturer, rapist, kidnapper, liar (‘and hey, also on the take, and what’s it to you, dude?’)”; “State of Mexico, # 1 in feminicides”; “Joaquín López Dóriga, pet monkey of the bourgeoisie”; “If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep”; “Murderer, repressor, asshole”; “Turn off the TV, don’t be fooled”; “It doesn’t offend me that you call me ‘prole,’, what offends me is your ignorance”; “In Mexico the State is a killer: Tlatelolco, Halconazo, Atenco. We will never forget. Stop the attacks against Ostula and Cherán!”; “If you want to be a bird, fly. If you want to be a worm, crawl. But don’t cry about it when you get squashed.” Emiliano Zapata”; “Atenco is not forgotten because México’s memory is intact: Enrique Peña Nieto confessed killer and rapist”; “The youth of Mexico are responsible for radically transforming the country”; “Gaviota, Gaviota, your husband is a dumbass”; “I promise to fuck you up like I did people at Atenco. Signed, sealed and delivered, Das Peña Nieto”; “Peña: The TV chains are yours. Mexico is ours”; “Atenco is alive and kicking”; “Will you be able to look your children in the eye and tell them they live the way they do because you didn’t feel like struggling?”; “Make a god’s eye for Wirikuta”; “I didn’t come for my sandwich, I came because I have balls”; “We’re the grandchildren of the ones you couldn’t kill, the children of the ones you couldn’t silence, and the students of the ones you couldn’t buy”; “In memory of the victims of the Maundy Thursday Massacre 41 years later”; and “June 10 is not forgotten.”
In the course of the march to the Angel, several of the contingents shouted slogans and announced events over a megaphone. The people on top of the Chebús invited everyone to join in the activities in resistance to the G-20 meeting that will be held in Mexico on June 18-19.
The issue of Atenco has been central to the “I am #132” movement since it first began, with hundreds of students at the Ibero-American University greeting Enrique Peña Nieto with shouts of “¡Atenco! ¡Atenco!” last May 10th. When the presidential candidate defended his use of force as a necessary measure to maintain order and peace, they ran him off the campus with shouts of “Out now!”, “The Ibero doesn’t like you!”, “We remember Atenco!”, “Killer!”. When Peña Nieto and Televisa tried to convince the public that the protesters were paid outside agitators, 131 students from that university made a video and put it on YouTube showing their student credentials. Their action coming from an unlikely place (a private university) radically transformed the public debate in the country. Formerly, if the major news media mentioned any criticism of Peña Nieto at all, it usually had to do with the fact that the possible future President of Mexico is incapable of mentioning three books he has read in his life, or in certain cases, the matter of a little girl named Paulette, inexplicably found dead under a mattress in his bed in March of 2010, at the same time that the media suppressed the crimes of State proudly ordered by Peña Nieto in Atenco. But now they’re unable to ignore the reality that they themselves helped create with their calls for “restoring the state of law in Atenco,” although needless to say, they do everything possible to hide their own role in the repression and downplay or justify the role of their candidate.
In a brief interview, I asked América del Valle of the Peoples’ Front in Defense of the Land in San Salvador Atenco if they had ever expected a movement to spring up like “I am 132”.
She said: “The movement surprised us, but we don’t think it’s strange for there to be such an intense outpouring of repudiation and condemnation of Enrique Peña Nieto and his party, the PRI and all he represents, because as our comrades in 132 have said, it’s what he represents that’s important. All they did to us at Atenco — the murders, rapes, mass incarceration and selective incarceration — wasn’t a personal matter. It was political vengeance because we stopped an international airport, a megaproject that was going to bring in enormous sums of money for those that own the wealth.
“And what’s happening now is the result of so much repudiation and condemnation, of the fact that people are fed up with all he and his backers have done. And the students are a river that’s carrying all these voices, all this indignation. It’s very important because if they did what they did to Atenco, we wonder what’s in store for the country under this guy who’s guilty of so much, so barefaced, so shameless, so high-handed. We wonder what’s in store for the country every time he says, “And I’m a man of my word.” It’s a threat. He’s threatening us. Atenco was a threat about the way he would rule with an iron fist, closed to all dialogue, closed to any differences of opinion, closed to all opposition.
“So when 132 appears, what it means not only for Atenco, but for the country as a whole and for many countries in the world, is hope. And we hope this river doesn’t fizzle out as a puddle. We hope it swells and fills a sea of organized indignation, a sea of organized and united dignity that encompasses the plurality of positions and ideologies now existing. And we hope, at least this is a short-term goal for us, that Enrique Peña Nieto doesn’t come to power. Or if he does, that he’s unable to exert power. I say this because it’s probable that he’ll be imposed by means of a voter fraud the way Felipe Calderón was. That if he comes to power, he has no power because he brings the condemnation of the people with him, and that the people themselves take the reins of destiny into their own hands once and for all.”
This post is also available in: Spanish