Series of Scandals Bring Protests to Mexico City

By Chris Mazzacane, International News Writer

Over the past week, Mexico City’s famous Zócalo Square has become a center of protests against Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.

Normally home of the country’s joyous Independence Day celebrations, the square has now become the gathering point for protestors.

Thousands have gathered to call for the embattled president’s resignation after a series of scandals, beginning with the largely   unexplained disappearance of 43 students in 2014. His approval ratings have now hit 23 percent, an all-time low. President Nieto still has two years left of his term, but it is unclear if he will remain in office or simply vacate his position now.

Protests have also begun to spread    beyond the limits of Mexico City with surrogate movements popping up in smaller cities across the country. Although the vast majority of these demonstrations have remained peaceful, violence erupted in the southern city of Oaxaca when police fired tear gas on a crowd in response to a smattering of rocks and fireworks launched by the protestors.

That situation is now under control and demonstrators and police have since maintained the peace.

Peña Nieto first ran into problems in September 2014, following the disappearance of 43 trainee teachers in the rural Guerrero state just south of Mexico City.

His administration botched the            investigation into the incident, leading to country-wide protests and international scrutiny.  Families and friends of the missing teachers are still searching for answers, despite being ignored and oft-forgotten by the federal government.

Peña Nieto and his administration believed the worst of the scandal was behind them, but this changed with a recently released report criticizing the government’s handling of the investigation.

A group of international experts compiled a scathing 605-page report about the disappearances that harshly criticized the Mexican government of purposely blocking the investigation and covering up evidence.  This reignited public anger and the incident returned to the limelight.

Peña Nieto and his advisers also invited United States Presidential Candidate Donald Trump to visit the country and meet with Mexican government officials.

The Republican hopeful is extremely unpopular amongst Mexicans thanks to comments he made early on in his campaign where he referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists and murders.”

Despite these comments, he was treated respectfully throughout the course of his stay, which outraged many Mexican citizens.

In an interview with the New York Times, Alicia Mercado, a 66 year old protestor who took to the streets in a wheelchair, voiced her disappointment saying, “With Trump’s visit, [President Peña Nieto] couldn’t or didn’t even want to defend his own people.”

In a desperate attempt to please protestors, Luis Videgaray, the finance minister who proposed and planned the Trump visit, stepped down from his post.

After this move Ricardo Raphael, a prominent journalist who writes for Mexico’s El Universal, stated in an opinion piece, “The country does not deserve two more years of political distrust and limitless uncertainty.”

Approval ratings and popular opinion have not improved since Videgaray’s resignation.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 27th print edition.

Contact Chris at

christopher.mazzacane@student.shu.edu

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