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UNAM: Democracy and Mobocracy



     Free speech is an important component of democracy. Free speech means just that. The original intent was rational discourse, not staging wild street demonstrations and disrupting civic life. Television has given such demonstrations a new visibility, since they are much more dramatic than rational discourse.
     In Mexico, UNAM has been closed for a year, the victim of a minority of violent strikers and of the intrigues of the city government, compounded by the unwillingness of the various police forces to intervene, partly because of rivalry among them and partly because of their fear of being accused of abuse of force.
     The forthcoming summer vacations, when most people would be away, threatened to give the strikers an opportunity to seize the university buildings and to fortify themselves there. Televisa showed its support for the university administration with an ingenious poll, which I have not seen used elsewhere.
     It asked the question: "Do you think the police should occupy the university during the vacations?" There was one phone number for the yes, another for the no vote. The votes were tallied automatically in such a way that a telephone could be used to vote only once. This was to prevent the strikers from using a phone to vote an indefinite number of times. The tally was carried out automatically, and the results shown on the screen immediately. As of today, the yes votes were heavy winners, with the no votes adding up to 15% of the total. Many of these doubtlessly came from those who, while hostile to the strikers, did not want the university to be subject to police occupations.
     The vote made it clear that the strikers enjoy little public support, but it remained to be seen if they would accept this fact. It also would make it clear to the police that the public demanded action, regardless of the schemes of the city government.

Ronald Hilton - 4/18/00


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