Chronicle of a Mexico without a president
December 10, 2012
In Mexico, December 1, 2012, will be remembered as the day that an imposition was legitimized.
Enrique Peña Nieto — his name is often abbreviated in Mexico as “EPN” — took the reins of power in the context of deep indignation and amidst heavy state crackdown against crowds of protesters. A number of actions were planned in Mexico City to show the illegitimacy of Peña Nieto’s presidency, particularly given the unfair media attention he received and the electoral fraud that took place to ensure his victory.
On that day, Mexico’s historic center and the congressional buildings were a microcosm of the Mexican state as a whole. The Legislative Palace of San Lázaro, which houses Mexico’s Congress, appeared to be a giant fortress, deaf to the rubber bullets and tear gas grenades that the federal police fired at protesters. Nearby, thepresidential palace stood on one side of the Zócalo, the main square of Mexico City.
Across the street from the palace, Alameda central park had been turned into a battleground between protesters and police. The violence forced the“embroiderers for peace” — a group of artists who had gathered to display embroidered handkerchiefs that symbolized those killed or disappeared during former president Calderón’s six-year drug war — to withdraw from their peaceful protest.
Meanwhile, over televisions across the country, Mexicans participated in a society of spectacle as they watched Peña Nieto’s inauguration. Just outside the media bubble, however, shouts of indignation rose in the streets. At a restaurant on 5 de Mayo Street, Peña Nieto’s voice declared from a television screen, “Two thousand one hundred and ninety-one days are sufficient to lay the foundation to make Mexico a prosperous country.” In the meantime, the repression continued in the historical center of the city, resulting in more than 170 arrests, and another hundred injured, many seriously. All of the violence and outcry occurred just feet from the media spectacle that protected the so-called “imposition.”
As EPN lifted his right hand and promised to protect the Constitution, the story of a Mexico without a president began. The inauguration was marked by discontent and indignation in the streets, juxtaposed against the sense of denial — “nothing to see here” — taking place in a presidential palace living in a media bubble.
“I will govern looking out for the well-being and prosperity of the union, and if I don’t accomplish it, may the nation demand it of me,” Peña Nieto declared in his inauguration speech.
This speech and the government-controlled narrative of the day’s event have been widely broadcast. But the story of the day’s protests tended to be suppressed and distorted by official propaganda.