Mexican students won't protest if frontrunner wins vote fairly
* Protest group yet to clarify its stand on planned reforms * Leaders say they will remain politically relevant By Gabriel Stargardter MEXICO CITY, June 19 (Reuters) - A student movement that has helped rally opposition to Mexico's presidential frontrunner will not stage more mass protests against him if he wins the July 1 election fairly, leaders of the group said. The "Yo soy 132" ("I am 132") group has mobilized support against Enrique Pena Nieto, candidate of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), denting his lead and introducing some uncertainty into the race. Its success in helping to rally thousands of protesters against the PRI over the party's past record has prompted analysts to ask whether the movement will cause problems for the next government. Prominent figures of Yo soy 132 say they aim to remain active. However, leaders of the group interviewed by Reuters said their strategy was not to take a stand against the PRI at all costs, and they gave little indication of having taken a firm stand on Pena Nieto's main reform agenda. "If I find out Pena Nieto has been legally elected, then I will respect that result," said Fernando Rueda, a Yo soy 132 spokesman from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. "We have to respect our democracy and its institutions." But Rueda said more protests would follow if there was evidence of fraud. Other members of the group agreed. The group emerged in mid-May after Pena Nieto's campaign suggested a crowd of students who heckled him at Mexico City's private Ibero-American University were in fact agitators loyal to leftist contender Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Disputing this, 131 people brandished their university ID cards in an online video, spawning the movement. Lopez Obrador alleged voter fraud after narrowly losing to President Felipe Calderon in 2006 and led months of protests, but says he will accept the results this time. Yo soy 132 has played up the negative side to the PRI's 71-year rule of Mexico, which was dogged by allegations of corruption and authoritarianism. The group helped to bring tens of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets of Mexico City over the past few weeks. The youth movement has also accused Pena Nieto and the PRI of being in league with Mexico's dominant broadcaster Televisa, which it says has manipulated the political agenda. Pena Nieto says the PRI, which ruled Mexico between 1929 and 2000, has left its past behind as it seeks to reinvent itself. Now, voters believe the centrist party is the most likely to curb rampant drug violence in Mexico and create jobs. Pena Nieto has outlined three central reform planks for lifting economic growth: liberalizing the labor market, overhauling the fiscal regime to improve tax revenues and opening the state oil firm Pemex to more private investment. Asked about the plans, the Yo soy 132 leaders said they were focusing chiefly on how to "democratize the media". "Questions about fiscal reform and Pemex are less immediately relevant," said Valeria Hamel, a 22-year-old from Mexico's Autonomous Institute of Technology. The rise of the group has boosted Lopez Obrador, and many critics of Pena Nieto have thrown their support behind him. Lopez Obrador does not want to open up Pemex to foreign investors and is pursuing separate economic reform proposals. The students, who have met with a positive response in much of Mexico, are due to host a presidential debate later on Tuesday, though Pena Nieto declined an invitation. A telephone survey of 600 eligible voters in May by polling firm GCE showed that more than 60 percent of respondents thought the protest rallies were positive. But cracks have appeared. A video posted on YouTube showed one student who was involved with Yo soy 132 accusing Lopez Obrador's party of manipulating the group. The leftist's campaign and Yo soy 132 denied this. Pollster Jorge Buendia said the group's lack of formal leadership would make it hard to retain significant support. "They have lost steam," he said. (Editing by Dave Graham and Simon Gardner. Desking by Christopher Wilson)
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