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Claudia Sheinbaum Set to Become Mexico’s First Female President

Mexico held her presidential elections on Sunday and according to the preliminary results from 74% of the total votes, Claudia Sheinbaum is leading with between 58.3 and 60.7 percent of the vote. It put her nearest rival, Xochitl Galvez, who leads a coalition of largely conservative parties, on 26.6-28.8 percent.


The former head of Mexico City’s government, Sheinbaum was born into a family of Jewish heritage. She followed her parents into the field of science where she studied physics and then energy engineering, pursuing research for her doctoral degree at the University of California, Berkeley in the United States.

Her transition to politics came under the mentorship of Lopez Obrador, the outgoing president of Mexico, with whom she often participated in the same protests and activist work. When Lopez was elected mayor of Mexico City, he offered her the position to be the secretary of the environment.

Her transition to politics came under the mentorship of Lopez Obrador, the outgoing president of Mexico

In the decades since, she has campaigned on Lopez Obrador’s behalf, while forging her own academic and political career, including as mayor of Tlalpan. Eventually, in 2018, she became the first woman elected to lead Mexico City, a high-profile position often seen as a launchpad for future presidential bids. She resigned from the post in June 2023 to seek her party’s presidential nomination.

However, her campaign was overshadowed by the outgoing president’s popularity who was rated among the most popular heads of state currently in power, after India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

As Claudia Sheinbaum prepares to assume leadership in Mexico, she faces a complex array of challenges inherited from her predecessor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). These issues span from violence and cartel conflicts to economic instability and environmental crises, each requiring astute and effective governance to navigate.

AMLO claims to have reduced historically high homicide levels by 20 percent since taking office in December 2018. However, this assertion is based on a contentious interpretation of statistics. Independent analyses suggest that the real homicide rate has only declined by about 4 or 5 percent over the past six years. This marginal improvement underscores the persistent issue of violence in Mexico, which Sheinbaum must address to ensure public safety and restore confidence in law enforcement.

Under AMLO, drug cartels have expanded their control across much of the country, diversifying their revenue streams beyond narcotics to include extortion of legally operated industries and migrant smuggling. This complex and entrenched conflict poses a significant challenge for Sheinbaum, who must develop a multifaceted strategy to combat cartel influence and restore order.

Under AMLO, drug cartels have expanded their control across much of the country

Mexico’s state-owned oil company, Pemex, is burdened with immense debt, further exacerbated by AMLO’s ambitious yet faltering projects. The new oil refinery, a centerpiece of AMLO’s vision, remains non-operational, and many of his other infrastructure initiatives are unfinished, over budget, and unlikely to be profitable. Sheinbaum inherits these financial albatrosses, complicating her ability to foster economic stability and growth.

AMLO leaves behind a staggering budget deficit equivalent to 5.9 percent of GDP. This fiscal imbalance, coupled with ongoing costs for AMLO’s construction and social benefit programs, severely limits Sheinbaum’s financial maneuverability. Addressing this deficit while attempting to fund necessary reforms will be a delicate balancing act.

Mexico faces looming water and energy shortages, exacerbated by the inefficiencies and environmental impact of the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). The CFE has proven to be highly polluting and unreliable, particularly during droughts and extended heatwaves. Sheinbaum must innovate and implement sustainable solutions to address these critical shortages and ensure the country’s long-term viability.

The environmental challenges facing Mexico are dire. Long-running droughts, wildfires, and soaring temperatures have wreaked havoc on the ecosystem, with extreme cases such as monkeys dropping dead from trees due to heat stress. Additionally, the construction of AMLO’s Maya Train has sparked significant environmental concerns. Sheinbaum must prioritize environmental protection and sustainable development to mitigate these crises and preserve Mexico’s natural heritage.

Opposition candidate Xochitl Galvez Ruiz acknowledged defeat and congratulated Sheinbaum on her win. “A few minutes ago, I contacted … Sheinbaum to acknowledge the election result. I told her that I saw a Mexico with a lot of pain and violence and that I hope she can resolve the serious problems of our people,” she was quoted as saying by local media.

Translation: Being your candidate has been the greatest honour of my life. They will always count on me as a warrior who will fight for a country in which life, truth and freedom are respected. Let’s go ahead and long live Mexico!

Claudia Sheinbaum steps into leadership at a pivotal moment for Mexico. The challenges ahead are formidable, requiring a blend of innovation, resilience, and strategic planning. Addressing violence, cartel control, economic instability, fiscal deficits, and environmental crises will test her administration’s capabilities. Success in these areas is crucial not only for her political legacy but for the future prosperity and stability of Mexico.


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