Claudia Sheinbaum Is Likely To Be Mexico’s Next President. Who Is She?

Claudia Sheinbaum is poised to become Mexico’s next president. With a history of political activism, she aims to step out of President AMLO’s shadow and address challenges in a nation plagued by violence and instability.

Claudia Sheinbaum Is Likely To Be Mexico’s Next President. Who Is She? 1

Fuming, Claudia Sheinbaum was.

The presidential candidate started her party’s primary last summer with a sizable lead in the polls. However, several of the supporters of her main challenger stopped her one afternoon as she was checking into a hotel for a meeting, shouting that the contest had been rigged.

Normally unflappable, Sheinbaum strode inside and reprimanded Alfonso Durazo, the Morena party executive in charge of organizing the primaries.

“Wherever I arrive, I want to be respected,” she said, gesturing toward the table. “Do you understand?”

The moment was caught on camera and went viral. TV journalist Joaquin López-Dóriga remarked, “We’d never seen Claudia Sheinbaum this way, with this strong character, this anger.”

Being the first Jewish head of state and the first female president of Mexico, Sheinbaum, 61, is about to make history. A week before the election in Mexico, polls show her to have a sizable advantage over the next contender, conservative businessman Xóchitl Gálvez. Her outstanding resume includes a time as mayor of Mexico City and a PhD in environmental engineering.

Despite spending almost 25 years in the spotlight, she is still mostly unknown, best recognized for being President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s quiet protege. AMLO is a dynamic leader.

Is it possible for President Sheinbaum to emerge from his shadow and lead a violent nation with unstable political institutions?

Founded by AMLO in 2014, the Morena party has grown to be the dominant force in Mexican politics, holding 23 out of 32 governorships and Congress. Even if Sheinbaum is running for president, the party faithful still have the same strong allegiance to AMLO that Donald Trump’s support does to him.

“It’s clear to me she wants to be her own person. But we are in an unprecedented situation,” said political analyst Carlos Heredia, who advised AMLO when he was mayor of Mexico City. “Instead of power being centered in the Mexican state, it’s in one person.”

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Sheinbaum shakes hands with supporters as she holds a campaign rally in Mexico City this month.

Sheinbaum: Mexico’s first Jewish president?

Sheinbaum’s bond with AMLO is so strong that she occasionally speaks in a halting, sluggish manner. Her profile, however, is very different. He mentions his Christian convictions a lot. She is not religious, and she doesn’t talk much about her Jewish background. (Her grandparents left Lithuania and Bulgaria to avoid prejudice and persecution by the Nazis.)

AMLO despises international travel and is not fluent in English. Sheinbaum’s sister and daughter reside in the US, and she completed postdoctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

The president possesses the same type of folksy, small-town charm that propelled Bill Clinton to the presidency; he was raised in Mexico’s impoverished south. Sheinbaum had regular dance classes and individual French instruction while growing up in the capital’s intellectual elite.

A shared love for political activism is what binds the two.

Sheinbaum’s parents had a copy of Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital” stashed in the closet and were ardent lefties. Her mother was a biology professor who was fired in 1968 for taking part in student-led protests against the long-ruling one-party regime in Mexico.

For the sake of her book “Claudia Sheinbaum: Presidenta,” Sheinbaum told journalist Arturo Cano, “In my house, we talked about politics at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

While pursuing her undergraduate studies at Mexico’s premier university, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Sheinbaum became involved in student politics. Academic and friend of the family Rosaura Ruiz recalls Sheinbaum’s love of aiding the underprivileged. Ruiz stated that Sheinbaum had once worked for weeks in an Indigenous hamlet in the state of Michoacán, central Mexico, creating more effective wood-burning stoves for low-income women.

“She decided that by studying science, she could contribute more to Mexico,” Ruiz said.

Possibly the most pivotal event in Sheinbaum’s life was organizing and leading a 1987 student walkout over an attempt to increase tuition rates. As the one-party system broke down, she joined a new wave of socialist politicians coming out of universities. Numerous rose to prominence within the Revolutionary Democratic party, aiding AMLO in his election as Mexico City mayor in 2000.

Building a “second story” for the Periférico, the roadway encircling the capital, is one of AMLO’s major initiatives, and she was given this responsibility when he appointed Sheinbaum as his environment secretary while serving as mayor. She was the orderly engineer who completed projects on schedule, whereas he was the charming politician who was known for making jokes at daily press conferences and zipping around the city in a white Volkswagen Jetta.

In 2018, AMLO was elected president by an overwhelming majority of the populace that was fed up with violence, corruption, and a faltering economy. Sheinbaum, on the other hand, was elected as Mexico City’s first female mayor.

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Sheinbaum greets supporters during a campaign rally in San Francisco del Rincón, Guanajuato, Mexico, on May 3.

Success reducing crime

Sheinbaum’s mayoralty was essentially a pragmatist exercise. She enlisted Omar García Harfuch, a former head of  Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI who had extensive ties to U.S. law enforcement, to help fight crime. His grandfather served as defense secretary in 1968 when security forces slaughtered hundreds of pro-democracy protestors in Mexico City’s Tlatelolco square, many of whom were students. He was the scion of a police family that was hated by many on the left.

Under Sheinbaum’s leadership, homicides are said to have decreased by half. Her numbers have drawn criticism from analysts, who point out that roughly 30% of violent deaths are now categorized as “undefined” and are not included in murder statistics. However, Rodrigo Peña, a political scientist, stated that “we’ve seen a very important drop in many crimes.”

Sheinbaum’s administration sought the advice of experts for creative solutions, incorporating methods from Operation Ceasefire, a program designed to lessen gang violence in Boston. It also established a special police intelligence unit and promoted collaboration between prosecutors and police.

“One of Claudia Sheinbaum’s great merits is that she made a political bet on maintaining a civilian police force,” Peña said. As president, AMLO has adopted the opposite strategy, increasing the military’s involvement in crime prevention while slashing funding for municipal law enforcement.

Environmentalists have conflicting opinions about Sheinbaum’s work as mayor. She fought Manuel Bartlett, the strongman in charge of electricity in Mexico, to obtain money for solar panels that would cover the wholesale food market in the city. However, she has also fiercely supported AMLO’s attempts to reverse a 2013 energy program that increased the importance of renewable energy and the private sector.

Urban policy experts claim that rather than having a long-term vision, she is more well-known for her highly visible projects, such as bike lanes, electric buses, and cable cars for impoverished districts. The extensive Metro system’s poor maintenance was her “big political sin,” according to Erika Alcantar, a UNAM professor of urban studies.

A Metro overpass collapsed in May 2021, leaving 26 people dead. Sheinbaum commissioned an investigation on the causes by a Norwegian consulting firm. She applauded its preliminary reports, which placed the responsibility on mistakes made during building by her predecessors. However, she referred to the firm’s final report as “biased and false” when it also mentioned inadequate upkeep.

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Sheinbaum, then the mayor of Mexico City, and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at a rally in Mexico City on July 1, 2019.

Trying to fill AMLO’s shoes

Sheinbaum’s charm isn’t well-known. She said to Cano, “I’m an introverted person in general.”

Her political weaknesses were made clear at the midterm elections in June 2021. In Mexico City, the political stronghold of the left for many years, Morena won fewer than half of the 16 borough presidencies. Analysts noted that although the vote showed a backlash from the middle class against AMLO, it also showed Sheinbaum’s incapacity to cast a sizable pro-Morena ballot.

Should she become president, she will have an enormous task ahead of her. To keep the rival factions in Morena in check, preserve national stability as criminal organizations fought for control of territory, and uphold his notion of national sovereignty while appeasing US demands about drugs, trade, and immigration, López Obrador has accomplished a delicate balancing act.

However, he got a lot of backing from Morena.

“This is his party,” Heredia said. “Sheinbaum will have to construct her power base.”

After his tenure ends in October, AMLO, who enjoys being in the spotlight, plans to retire to his ranch and give up politics. Mexicans have doubts.

Sheinbaum’s agenda has already been partially determined by AMLO. He has outlined the main ideas of her candidacy, such as a constitutional amendment that would allow the people to choose Supreme Court justices.

Mexicans are concerned about this because they think AMLO supporters would vote for his friends. Already, he has undermined autonomous establishments like the electoral board. The party might take control of all three branches of government if Morena secures the congressional supermajority required to approve the amendment.

The notion that AMLO would still be in charge of the government makes Sheinbaum laugh.

“Let’s see,” she told Cano. “A woman can’t do things, and needs a man behind her to tell her what to do?”

Recently, GreatGameIndia reported that the Eurocrats are using the attempted assassination of Slovak Prime Minister Fico to shift focus from vague Russian meddling claims to influencing voter perceptions, aiming to counter conservative gains in the upcoming European parliamentary elections.

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