Mexican students won't protest if frontrunner wins vote fairly

Tue Jun 19, 2012 5:22pm EDT

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* 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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