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Mexican Presidential Elections: 'I Am Number 132' Movement Shows How Social Media Has Changed Politics

At a time when the Mexican government is attempting to demonstrate that it has everything under control, the social movement “I am number 132” has sprung up without warning, calling attention to the numerous injustices prevalent in Mexican society. Leading up to the G20 meeting, which will take place in Mexico on June 17, and the presidential elections that will take place in July, Mexican officials are determined to demonstrate that they have everything under control, and that the country’s economic development is one to be envied. Recently, however, a student group got together to create a video in which 131 young people denounced the precarious social and economic conditions experienced by the majority of Mexicans, and declared their opposition to the PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party) presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto. In a matter of moments, the video went viral.

The results were instantaneous with people from all over Mexico responding anonymously via Twitter and Facebook claiming to be number 132. The immediate popular support of the movement, which has declared itself an anti-neoliberal, non-violent, and horizontal movement, is putting the legitimacy of the Mexican ruling elite to the test. Just a few weeks before the elections, in what has been now called the “Mexican Spring”, the movement “I am number 132” is succeeding in radically changing public opinion in Mexico and causing many to speculate over the effects this movement will have on the immediate future of the country and the elections. The movement is just another example in line with the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the Spanish indignados which showed the world the way that social media and social movements are changing the face of politics as we know it.

The objectives of the movement are clear. They don’t want to permit the installation of a presidential candidate imposed from above. Representatives of the movement believe that electoral fraud is imminent before the possible defeat of the PRI candidate, and that the media will be complicit in covering any potential fraud. Despite these declarations the movement does not intend to campaign solely around electoral issues. Instead its goal is to fundamentally change Mexican society through its struggle for social justice. I am number 132 has managed to highlight some of Mexico’s most important social, economic, educational, environmental, and cultural problems in an unprecedented way, while calling for an end to the system that has left the majority of the country’s population marginalized. The movement has been successful in calling attention to the disproportionately large gap between the country’s rich and poor (the country’s wealthiest population is 27 times wealthier than the country’s poorest segment), the violent war on drugs, which has claimed 60,000 lives, and the extended corruption of both politics and media.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the I am number 132 movement is not only the way it spread instantaneously via social media, replicating other protest movement’s ability to utilize new media tools to gain instant popularity and support, but also the way media has been a central focus of their demands. One of the movement’s demands is that the pending debates between presidential candidates be publicized on national television. Another is that the government guarantee Internet access. The movement has demonstrated that it deems media access fundamental in the struggle for a more just and equal society. Only through information can citizens be empowered to make educated demands of the government and society. It is for this reason that the movement supports the right to information and freedom of expression as two of its central demands.

 So far, social media has brought this youth led social movement into the spotlight, giving it a strong potential to change the outcome of the pending elections. Given its immediate level of popular support and its capacity to spread information online, the movement I am number 132 could also have the potential to change Mexican politics far into the future. The next few weeks will be key in determining the next steps of the movement and its influence on the future of Mexico.. 

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