Mexico makes history electing its 1st woman president: Claudia Sheinbaum

A turning point in Mexico’s history, a woman was elected president for the first time. Claudia Sheinbaum won in a landslide, doubling the vote share between herself and her nearest opponent, Xóchitl Galvez.

The World

In a historic election, Mexicans elected their first woman president on June 2. 

Claudia Sheinbaum won in a landslide against her opponent Xóchitl Gálvez, another woman.

It’s “a historical moment for Mexican women and girls, including their female ancestors,” Sheinbaum told voters gathered at Mexico City’s main plaza as election results were announced early Monday.

Sheinbaum, a Nobel-Prize-winning climate scientist with a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, became the first woman mayor of Mexico City in 2018. 

From 2000 to 2006, she served as the minister of environment under current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. During her tenure, Sheinbaum helped build bike lanes and boosted public transportation, though critics say she didn’t push back against projects that were not environmentally friendly.

Sheinbaum’s six-year term will begin on Oct. 1 — and she will inherit some big challenges from her predecessor. The López Obrador administration, which was elected in 2018, saw record-high rates of violent crime while drug cartels became ever more powerful. Additionally, the country’s oil company faces $106 billion in debt. 

Turning point for women?

Mexicans not only elected a new president but replaced every seat in Congress, including local and state offices. Close to 20,000 politicians were elected on Sunday in Mexico. And, Sheinbaum’s victory wasn’t the only success for women. 

After this election, Mexico will have the fourth-largest number of congresswomen in the world, with women governing nearly half of its 32 states — far outpacing the United States. 

Though women won the right to vote in Mexico’s elections in 1953, men have still long led the parties. In a long battle, the feminist movement pushed for female political representation, which led to a 2019 Congress-approved law mandating gender parity in government-appointed positions.  

But, some caution that this doesn’t necessarily mean better conditions for women in Mexico.

One voter, Becky Bios, said that women are still under the umbrella of political parties led by men.

Under the shadow of López Obrador

Sheinbaum has said that her government will be a continuation of the López Obrador administration. 

Lopez Obrador’s political platform promised to bring a break from center-right parties that had been in power for almost a century in Mexico, and the commitment was to support the working-class and the poor. 

It was supposed to end corruption, grow the Mexican economy, reduce violence, build more infrastructure, and expand social programs.

Some of his promises were accomplished and some were not — and some say that violence and corruption only worsened. 

In a recent interview, Sheinbaum implied that diverging from his agenda could be risky.

“If I start saying what I don’t like, that can cause division between us, and I don’t want that,” Sheinbaum said.

But what will happen when López Obrador is no longer there remains to be seen.

Sheinbaum insists that she and Obrador are very different people. While López Obrador was raised in Mexico’s countryside, Sheinbaum grew up in Mexico’s capital among academics and intellectuals, attending ballet and music lessons.

López Obrador doesn’t speak English and dislikes traveling abroad, while Sheinbaum was educated in the US, where her daughter currently lives. Obrador is Catholic, while Sheinbaum is not religious and rarely refers to her Jewish heritage. 

Still, Bosworth said, their personalities are different.

“People who have worked with [Sheinbaum] say she is very disciplined, strict, and hard-working,” he said, adding, “Those can be good qualities to get things done.”

Sheinbaum, he said, may also be more apt to prioritize environmental issues.

She’s a quiet climate scientist. She cares about renewable energy, she cares about climate change,” Bosworth said. “I mean, Lopez Obrador has been one of the worst presidents for climate change on the planet.”

Separately, Sheinbaum has said multiple times that Mexico would have “good relations” with either Donald Trump or Joe Biden and that she will continue to work to contain the flow of migrants.

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