Who is Claudia Sheinbaum, the scientist set to become Mexico’s first woman president?

By Charlie Sawyer

Published May 31, 2024 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

On Sunday 2 June 2024, Mexico is set to have a presidential election. And this one is so important and significant that I’m honestly surprised people aren’t taking proper notice. The next president of Mexico will be a woman, a serious feat when you consider the country’s ingrained culture of sexism and misogyny, particularly when it comes to female leaders. And with a deeply loved incumbent, extremely aggressive swathes of violence dominating the election cycle, and systemic political corruption still prevalent, whoever ends up nabbing the presidency is going to have a seriously treacherous road ahead of them.

Having two female front-runners is definitely a first for Mexico. Moreover, the gal leading the polls, Claudia Sheinbaum, is quite the promising pick. The former Head of Government of Mexico City, Sheinbaum has championed LGBTQIA+ rights, staunchly defended the legalisation of abortion, and openly identifies as a feminist.

 

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A post shared by Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo (@claudia_shein)

Thing is, a number of commentators have shared concerns over how well she’ll be received considering the fact that her predecessor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador or AMLO as he’s often called, is wildly popular. Indeed, the incumbent’s approval rating has never dipped below 60 per cent—an impressive track record in modern times.

In this article, we’ll delve into Sheinbaum’s past, political persuasion, and indeed the change she might enact in Mexico.

Who is Claudia Sheinbaum?

Claudia Sheinbaum is a Mexican politician, scientist, and academic who served as the Head of Government of Mexico City from 2018 to 2023. The first woman to be elected to that position, Sheinbaum has a very impressive CV.

Sheinbaum is the presidential candidate from the ruling Morena party—a political party that describes itself as left-wing, populist, and anti-neoliberal. Currently, the politician is dominating in the polls, and while turnout in Mexican elections can vary on voting day, Sheinbaum still has a comfortable lead, ranging from 11 to 22 points over main opposition rival Xochitl Galvez, a businesswoman and senator representing a left-right coalition, as reported by Reuters.

 

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A post shared by Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo (@claudia_shein)

From 2000 to 2006, the Mexico City native worked as Secretary of the Environment under AMLO during his tenure as Head of Government—a position Sheinbaum would later take on herself. While some have inferred that Sheinbaum is effectively AMLO’s “puppet,” others have been quick to point out times when the academic veered away from her mentor’s ideas—her much more scientific and practical approach to the COVID pandemic for example.

In a recent interview, Sheinbaum stated: “I don’t care about those things the opposition says, that mine would be another Lopez Obrador government.”

Indeed, it’s predicted that Sheinbaum, while still interested in following AMLO’s lead when it comes to the economy, will likely pursue more intensive policies when it comes to climate change and security. While Sheinbaum is used to tackling and confronting violence and criminal activity in Mexico City, it’s clear that cartel groups leverage much more control in states outside the centre.

According to Reuters, Sheinbaum’s advisors have expressed that if elected, the presidential candidate aims to reduce Mexico’s murder rate from 23.3 homicides for every 100,000 residents to around 19.4 per 100,000 by 2027. To achieve this, the politician will double the number of federal investigators to 8,000, increase the number of National Guard troops to 150,000 from around 120,000, decrease impunity through judicial reform, and create youth education and community programmes.

Despite the former president’s attempts to curb organised crime, things have only gotten more dire. As indicated by 2023’s Mexico Peace Index (MPI), the national organised crime rate has risen by 64.2 per cent in the past eight years.

What to expect from Claudia Sheinbaum as Mexico’s first female president

A classic pragmatist, Sheinbaum’s strengths lie in her enthusiasm for data and strategy, and although people have hinted that she’s lacking some, well, charisma, I’d argue that her guitar skills are pretty damn charismatic.

@claudiasheinbaum

Se está cocinando un nuevo hit… estén pendientes a las redes para que escuchen la canción completa. #claudiasheinbaum #hitmusic #guitarra #presidenta #yucatán #canción #parati #2dejunio

♬ sonido original - Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo

Irrespective of her plans to either diverge from or continue and amplify AMLO’s political path for the future of Mexico, we must recognise the sheer significance of Sheinbaum’s position. Plus, I’d honestly be so intrigued to see a face-to-face conversation between Sheinbaum and the stuffy Republicans up North.

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