It was hardly surprising that Peña Nieto’s inauguration this Saturday sparked protests across Mexico City, and it was only slightly more surprising that some of those protests turned violent. Two things have become painfully clear since then:
1) The police were woefully unprepared and did not act with great aplomb. The abuses and unjustified arrests that occurred seem to me less a signal of a repressive plot than a police force that was overwhelmed. Yes, the police acted reprehensibly, and apparently grabbed and beat anyone they could catch, regardless of involvement in any criminal action, but that is hardly a new phenomenon.* Nevertheless, the pressure is definitely on the new government to resolve this quickly and justly before it becomes the sort of human rights violation that was a hallmark of the old PRI administrations.
2) The reports and rumors of dirty tricks are credible. The first report yesterday that anarchist groups received 300 pesos to commit vandalism rings true, and suggests an effort to discredit the protests–an old PRI strategy to be sure. Hopefully it’s nothing more than an isolated incident and not an indication of what the next six years will look like.
* Studies of 1968 have argued that at the start of the movement, the police repression that helped drive the growth of the protests was not an organized effort from the upper echelons of government, but rather the chaotic response to a situation for which the police were wholly unprepared; see Ariel Rodríguez Kuri’s work.