CLAUDIA SHEINBAUM LIKELY TO BECOME MEXICO’S PRESIDENT
By: Sophie Tian
60-year-old Claudia Sheinbaum recently stepped down from her position as the mayor of Mexico City to enter the primary race for president. Campaigns kicked off this week, and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is set to choose his successor on September 6. According to political experts, Sheinbaum’s chances are looking good.
Sheinbaum was born into a political household. Her parents participated in the Mexican student movement of 1968, infamous for the Tlatelolco massacre in which police killed protestors in the capital.
In high school, Sheinbaum protested the exclusion of poor students from higher education. Then, as a student at the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), she protested raising fees there.
Her first husband was a leader within the Democratic Revolution Party, which opposed the authoritarian Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, was a PRI defect. In the 1990s, a mutual friend introduced him to Sheinbaum, a teacher at UNAM at the time. Then, when AMLO became mayor of Mexico City in 2000, he appointed Sheinbaum secretary of environment.
Sheinbaum later joined his political group, the National Regeneration Movement, also known as the Morena. In 2015, Sheinbaum became the borough president of Tlalpan. Then, in 2018, she was elected mayor of Mexico City, and AMLO was elected president.
Now, as AMLO’s term comes to an end, Sheinbaum is likely to become president herself. She would be both the first female and the first Jewish president of Mexico. “Mexico is no longer written with the M of machismo, but rather for mother, for mujer,” she said.
Sheinbaum has stayed on good terms with the president because of their similar ideologies. “I am on the left. The right, above all, thinks that the market is going to resolve all problems and that the state has no responsibility,” she said. “We think the state has [the] responsibility to provide education, healthcare, housing, and generate better conditions of life.”
But some are now wondering if she’s just copying AMLO’s ideas. She’s even adopted some of his speech patterns.
“Claudia is not questioned for being a woman, but rather for mimicking a man and transforming herself to please AMLO,” said political science professor Denise Dresser. “Nothing is more contrary to the agenda of autonomy/feminine empowerment that marks a new generation of women.”
On the other hand, Sheinbaum is sometimes very different from her mentor. While AMLO is an inspiring public speaker, Sheinbaum is not. “She would put Gandhi to sleep,” said columnist Juan Ignacio Zavala.
She has also disagreed with AMLO at times. While he spends billions to try to revive Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, she champions renewable energy. During the pandemic, he downplayed the threat while she wore a mask and enforced lockdown. However, their disagreements haven’t hindered their relationship.
AMLO will have the final say in choosing the candidate from the Morena party, but with Morena being the strongest political party, many see Morena’s primary election as the real election.
“Mr. Lopez Obrador will name his successor. This is his political party, and he makes his decisions based on loyalty,” said Tony Payan of Rice University. “Claudia has not deviated one iota from what he says. She has repeated and supported everything he has said.”
Sheinbaum’s main competition is Marcelo Ebrard, another former Mexico City mayor. Prior to the primary election, Ebrard was foreign secretary in AMLO’s administration. However, Sheinbaum maintains a 10-point lead.
President Lopez Obrador and Sheinbaum’s long history together leaves her the perfect opportunity to become his successor, and if she does, she will make history as Mexico’s only female president.