I was eager to fly home to Mexico City in July to vote in my first presidential election. I hoped to join the 57 million fellow Mexican citizens expected to cast ballots.
My parents, brother, sister and I waited two hours in a line that snaked into the polling station. Hundreds stood under the scorching sun on a muggy Sunday morning — and none left until they had voted.
More than feeling optimism, we were boiling with anger at the government of Enrique Peña Nieto, who was term-limited but whose Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, held power for decades. The party controlled the presidency, Congress and 21 of 31 governorships. But strangely, we were hopeful we could change Mexico.
Similar to the campaign of Donald Trump, Peña Nieto promised to reform education, energy and labor systems. And in the early part of his administration, Peña Nieto’s presidency included an appearance on the cover of Time (headline: “Saving Mexico”). But the expectations were short-lived. A backlash of protests erupted in response to the so-called reforms.
Peña Nieto, like Trump, spent countless weekends escaping the citizens and playing golf at a Mar-a-Lago-style resort, while some of his fellow PRI politicians exploited their power. For instance, Javier Duarte, former governor of Veracruz whom Peña Nieto called his friend, has been charged with being involved in forced disappearances and graft. Duarte is one of at least three Mexican governors who fled the country and were arrested abroad over alleged links to organized crime.
The administration lost touch with citizens and ignored all critics, which was only slightly better than going on Twitter rants every time someone disagreed with its policies. Amid protests outside the National Palace, Peña Nieto and Trump held a news conference, appearing as friends and talking about their strong relationship.
The PRI was concerned about losing control of the government, so the party employed a campaign strategy eerily familiar to U.S. voters in the 2016 presidential election, including bots that spread fake news about opposing candidates and glorified the PRI slate. Also, the administration tried to silence its critics. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 10 reporters were killed during the Mexican presidential campaign, including a friend of mine. Mexico became the third-most dangerous country for that profession, just after Syria and Iraq.
The PRI campaign failed. On July 1, 65 percent of eligible voters cast ballots and the PRI’s presidential candidate lost. The party didn’t win even one of the 300 electoral districts. The PRI also lost all nine gubernatorial races, and its congressional majority was shattered.
As I attend college in the United States, movements like #MeToo, the Women’s March, March for Our Lives and Abolish ICE left me impressed and hopeful. Mexicans rarely march or demonstrate, maybe because of fear or tradition. Yet when we were faced with a power that jeopardized our rights, we rose up together, forgot our differences and cut our political ties. We attacked with the most significant weapon at our disposal — our vote. It was a crippling shot to the establishment.
Americans are in a similar situation with a president who possibly won through illicit methods and threatens the rights of minorities, women and his critics. Given more time, he could send the whole country and world order into a spiral. The #Resist movement has been relentless, but no real change will happen unless its people take a page from Mexico’s book.
Come November, cut political ties and expel those in government who have failed you.
Roberto Bosoms is a student at New York University majoring in philosophy.