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      Mexican Presidential Candidates Woo Student Movement, U.S. Official Says Drug War Will Continue Regardless of Outcome

      Mexican soldiers standing by the site where three dismembered bodies linked to drug violence were found in Acapulco in March. (Pedro Pardo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images) Mexican public opinion has turned sharply against the US–supported drug war, which has left over 50,000 dead, forcing Mexico’s presidential candidates to disavow the militarized approach in favor of less violent alternatives. US officials are deeply concerned at the prospect of ending or even slowing the drug war, and say privately that the leading candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto of PRI, does not mean his own sound bites.

      An unnamed US official told the New York Times, “What we basically get is that [Nieto] fully appreciates and understands that if/when he wins, he is going to keep working with us.” (New York Times, June 10, 2012)

      Follow the electoral showdown over the drug war through Tom Hayden’s onsite reporting from Mexico City June 28-30.

      For more on current developments, please see the following report by Peace and Justice Resource Center correspondent Alci:

      The last round of presidential debates have taken place in Mexico with less than a month to go before citizens head to the polls and with the youth-led “Yo Soy 132" (I Am 132) protest movement still mobilizing in the streets. The last debate was broadcast by the two major networks TV Azteca and Televisa after the protest movement demanded an end to network censorship and Televisa's biased coverage of PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto. Right before the debate Nieto's campaign was rocked by allegations published in the UK's Guardian alleging that his campaign has been bribing Televisa for favorable coverage. The scandal has grown with the Guardian now publishing WikiLeaks cables confirming that US officials have been aware of Nieto's cash dealings with Televisa going back to 2009.

      The one change in tone that truly stood out in the final debate was the obvious efforts of the candidates to win over the students who hours before had again rallied in the streets to protest Mexico's economic ills and corrupt political system.

      Ruling party PAN candidate Josefina Vasquez Mota kept making references to the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre when the then-ruling PRI unleashed government troops on student protesters, leftist PRD candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) attacked neoliberal economics and emphasized the need to create jobs and cultural programs for the young, Nieto recycled PRI promises to also create more employment and better wages (but with a more free market slant). In the end Obrador was the candidate who more directly challenged current economic dogma and even referenced Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal as one of his guiding examples for what is possible in Mexico if he wins.

      With the TV debates over, the campaigns now station themselves fully in the streets. Just how divisive the situation is was evident a few hours after the broadcast was over when PRI supporters of Nieto actually attacked PRD/AMLO partisans in a Mexico City subway tunnel. A bystander caught the chilling confrontation on a cell phone video camera. “Yo Soy 132” is also vowing to remain in the streets to apply more pressure on a political class and system they see as deaf to the people's needs. More marches and demonstrations are planned right up until July 1 when ballots are cast.

      Letters From Mexico 

      Dear Tom,

      The student movement here is amazing. just when everyone thought most youth were cynical and fatalistic, this movement arises. Just when everyone thought we would all be subsumed in electoral politics where the citizen voice doesn't matter, they stand up and say NO. And instead of reinventing the wheel, they are claiming to be the heirs of the vast history of Mexican social movements, most of which happened long before they were born.

      With AMLO rising the question is how to avoid another fraud. The official institutions are obviously no guarantee so citizen organization is the only option. Anything could happen.

      Laura Carlsen, Mexico City


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