Independent Bloggers In Mexico Multiplying, Uniting to Face Violence, Elections

2010-02-18-blog_logo1.jpg Mexico is facing - once again - one of those defining moments in its young and fledgling democracy. It wasn't that long ago, July 6, 2006 to be exact, that the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) in Mexico announced the final vote count in the presidential election, resulting in a narrow margin of 0.58 percentage points of victory for right wing Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (PAN). That same year the left wing PRD (Revolutionary Democratic Party) led by Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador took to the streets in massive protests demanding a vote by vote recount and accusing the whole world of being silent witnesses to a massive fraud and conspiracy.

Calderon's victory gave the conservative National Action Party a second consecutive 6 year term, after Vicente Fox (PAN) had won the presidency back in 2000 - which in turn had ended the 71 year one-party rule by the PRI (the ideologically impaired Institutional Revolutionary Party) and had represented yet again one of those watershed events that have come to define Mexican politics.

The widespread expectations among Mexicans that a long-awaited democracy would solve the country's problems are now confronted with the reality of an institutional system that is not only broken and corrupt at its core, but that is consolidating its power with unnerving ease and at an alarmingly fast pace.

Since the last election cycle these three major parties (PRD, PRI, PAN - in order from left to right) -- the same who had engaged in public displays of disaffection, the same who vowed never again to practice disingenuous political machinery tricks -- decided to sign an electoral reform that would cement their future in some shape or form. While the law did not specify how or when these three parties would share power, it did set a precedent and that is that no matter the type of fight, one of the three would in effect end up winning, blurring once and for all the lines of the age-old political spectrum and of decency for that matter.

Even worse, the public disappointment over a deeply depressed economy, and over the widespread violence that springs out from the often surreal drug war, seems to be paving way for a complete takeover by the PRI - yes the same one that held power for 71 years. As retaliation the right wing PAN and the left wing PRD have decided to form an alliance in several states heading into 2010 state/region elections.

What? Confused? You're not the only one. Mexicans left and right, south and north, front and center are scratching their heads wondering what precisely happened to their country and who exactly is running the show now.

This is also where independent bloggers come into play. They have extended their grip on internet activism and news sharing and have been thriving at it, as the Mexican public becomes increasingly frustrated with their established political options.

Late last year, for example, upon hearing that a proposed fiscal law would tax and further control internet use and consumption across Mexico, independent bloggers quickly united around Twitter, Facebook and their own blogs and created such a massive media nightmare for the governing body that the proposed changes were soon dropped and the body was shamed into apology.

Now, with the 2010 regional elections taking place in the summer and the presidential elections right around the corner, independent bloggers have grown in size, have elevated their technical abilities and have began to unite. Independent blogs like Metáfora Política (Political Metaphor), Centro de Inteligencia Política (Center of Political Intelligence), Revolución Con Letras (Revolution With Words), Impresión Política and Dejemos de Hacernos Pendejos (Let's Stop Being A**Holes) among others have began forming alliances, sharing content and providing a path for common usage and actions. Touting a following of thousands on Twitter and Facebook and countless via their blogs, their reach is viral and widespread.

Their goal: Independence, not only politically but media-wise. They have recognized that the media too, like the political system, is controlled by a few -- like Carlos Slim (second richest man in the world and owner of the one and only telephone company, Telmex); Emilio Azcarraga Jean owner of one of only two major public TV networks, Televisa, and recently acquirer of a 30% stake in Nextel Mexico; and a handful of other businessmen who run most newspapers and outlets around the country. These independent bloggers face an uphill battle.

Yet some have taken notice of how quick they have been able to unite around an issue, with outstanding messaging precision and a high motivation to action at a time when major political players are looking for the same sort of netroots breakthrough to organize their bases.

For example, president Calderón recently proposed 10 major changes to the political structure of the country. Soon after the announcement there were videos up, blogs posted and online actions organized. The political reform, viewed by many as not enough medicine given at the wrong time, now faces huge opposition nationwide partly due to the swift action taken by these independent bloggers.

The question is how fast they will grow and whether they will be able to turn their online abilities into fierce political opposition against a system and a mainstream establishment that can fight back easily with infinite resources. And how they will use their message to turn promotion of a peaceful end to a misguided drug war that has produced countless victims into policy.

All seems to be ripe for an online showdown, not only in 2010, when part of Mexico re-elects governors and local councils, but also in 2012 when yet again the presidency is at stake. The outcome will largely depend on how strong and united the Mexican netroots going into these electoral processes.

As such, Mexico faces yet again another one of those defining moments. This time, though, it is for yet another type of independence.