Diplomacy

Who is Mexico’s new President?

Claudia Sheinbaum has become Mexico’s first woman President.

Image credit: Shutterstock / addi_setyawan

Claudia Sheinbaum has become Mexico’s first woman President.

In fact, her win put outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) 2018 victory in the shade. Sheinbaum hails from the same left-leaning Morena party. And now, within a short few months Sheinbaum will assume office in the wake of her close ally.

Sheinbaum is also Mexico’s first Jewish President.

Jews in Mexico comprise six principle social groups, among which is the Orthodox Comunidad Ashkenazi community established by immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe.

Sheinbaum, born into a secular Jewish family, had paternal Ashkenazi grandparents who arrived in Mexico City from Lithuania in the 1920s, and maternal Sephardic grandparents who emigrated from Bulgaria to escape fascism.

Crime and Punishment

The road to the ballot box was seeped in the blood woefully characteristic of Mexican politics. This year’s elections proved to be the most violent in modern history, as tens of candidates met violent deaths the run-up.

Violence is a theme close to Sheinbaum’s heart, and one she has pledged to address forcefully.

Following victory at the July 1, 2018 election, Sheinbaum began a six-year term as the head of the Government of Mexico City having garnered 47.08% of the vote to trounce six other candidates.

Here, too, she was the first woman to win the position. Upon victory she targeted crime with a pledge to publish regular statistics on policy performance.

Those same statistics indicate an impressive 50% decline in the capital city’s murder rate. She resigned on 12 June 2023, to throw her hat into the presidential nomination ring.

And now Sheinbaum aims to cut Mexico’s murder rate from 23.3 homicides per 100,000 residents to around 19.4 per 100,000 by 2027, which the media swiftly noted, was the figure for Brazil. The 2021 rate for the Americas overall was 5.1.

An Environmental Challenge

On another key issue for today’s world, her strong environmental credentials include a stint on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007. A professional scientist by training, she was co-author on the mitigation of climate change for the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. Her group scooped up that year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

It’s worth noting here that in December 2022, Mexico handed in its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement. As per the terms of the NDC the nation aims, by 2030, to curb GHG emissions by 35% and black carbon emissions by 51%. A net-zero deforestation rate is targeted by 2030. Political pundits will therefore monitor her forthcoming presidency for evidence of progress towards these ambitious targets.

Considering the broader canvass, Sheinbaum’s campaign pledge was to continue Amlo’s ‘Fourth Transformation,’ or 4T project by building its second floor, essentially by splitting economic power from its political counterpart.

AMLO had coined the phrase “4T” to indicate the latest monumental stage in Mexico’s history after independence in 1810, the separation of church and state in 1858, and the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Sheinbaum’s “second floor,” in her own words, entails, “…more rights, a welfare state, education, health, access to housing, and that a living wage is a right, not a privilege.” She labels her political model Mexican Humanism.

Once the wow-factor of Sheinbaum’s truly impressive victory fades she will need to demonstrate progress on creating sustainable mechanisms to tackle Mexico’s endemic economic imbalance.

Getting to grips with the crime that perpetuates that imbalance may prove to be the greatest challenge of her tenure.