Analysis News Top

New Mexican president is something of a mystery

Television coverage of the Mexican presidential election. (Samantha Esquivel/YJI)

MEXICO – Mexico has gained a lot of attention as it made history this week by electing its first woman president, Claudia Sheinbaum.

Yet not many know much about her. 

She was born in 1962 in Mexico City, where she studied physics in the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Before entering the political field, she spent years working at a research lab in California studying energy and climate change. 

Claudia Sheinbaum. (Image from her official Facebook page.)

After gaining her masters degree at the University of California, Berkeley, she returned home to pursue her PhD at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Sheinbaum began her political journey in 2000, when current President Lopez Obrador appointed her the environment secretary of Mexico City, and afterwards the head of the city’s government.

In 2015, she made history by becoming the first woman to be elected head of the Tlalpan district of Mexico City. Shortly after, broke another barrier by becoming the first woman elected as head of the government of Mexico City.

A year ago, she stepped down from this position to run for president, and won by a land-slide. 

Due to her close relationship with Obrador, some of her proposals are continuations of the current social programs he implemented. For example, the universal welfare program, created in his political term, offers financial aid to students, elderly and the unemployed. 

Although this provides support to those in need, it has also created the phenomenon known as “ninis.” This is a term for those who do not work nor look to advance in their studies and instead rely on the easy option of solely living on social welfare.

In transportation, she also promised to continue the ongoing projects of the Maya train, which aims to have the ability to cross Mexico in its entirety. But the project has been severely criticized by experts and organizations like the Mexican Centre for Environmental Rights, for creating environmental damages during its construction in Mexico’s jungles in the south.

Further – due to the past years being some of the most violent in Mexico’s history – security was a big issue for Mexico in the last presidential term. To combat this, Obrador reinforced Mexico’s National Guard and expected the military to manage issues with citizens that were usually handled by the police.

Once more, Sheinbaum proposed to continue her predecessor’s National Guard program. 

During the three presidential debates broadcasted live on national television, she had the opportunity to present her proposals and defend them in front of the other two candidates, Xóchitl Gálvez and Jorge Maynéz.

During most of the debates, the focus was on Sheinbaum and Xóchitl, whose parties represent opposite ideologies in Mexican society.

When it came to their presentations in the debates, Sheinbaum presented herself in a very professional manner, while Xóchitl focused her debates through visual mockery of Sheinbaum’s ideologies, background, and proposals.

This caused Xochitl’s proposals to be overshadowed by her constant use of posters that claimed Sheinbaum was “full of lies.”

Having our first woman president in Mexico is a huge step forward in overcoming its deeply patriarchal culture.

People lined up to vote on Sunday in Mexico. (Samantha Esquivel/YJI)

But Sheinbaum still has a long way to go. As president, she must do a good job taking care of the wellbeing of millions of Mexicans. But, as the first woman president, not performing well can shift the blame towards her gender, backfiring instead of benefiting her feminist message. 

Most of her proposals are a continuation of programs created and executed by president Obrador. There are proposals with the potential of benefiting Mexico, such as creating more colleges.

But it’s no secret that Obrador pointed her out as his favorite candidate, putting pressure on her to follow in his steps. He even appeared in several propaganda campaigns for her.

As such, it raises the question of whether she’ll become a second Obrador or be able to separate herself to leave her own stamp.

But as of now, it’s somber to think that there is a man’s voice behind Mexico’s first woman president.

Regina López is a Senior Correspondent with Youth Journalism International. She is co-author of this article.

Samantha Esquivel is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International. She is co-author of this article.

More from YJI about Mexico’s election:

Leave a Comment