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Mexico’s first female president Claudia Sheinbaum faces many challenges

Mexico’s first female president Claudia Sheinbaum faces many challenges

By Urvashi Sarkar

Photo courtesy: Claudia Sheinbaum/ Facebook

Sheinbaum will have to carve a niche that separates her from her predecessors–though her actions as mayor of Mexico city during the pandemic prove she is capable of doing so

A climate scientist, mayor and Mexico’s-first ever female President. This is Claudia Sheinbaum, whose extraordinary journey to becoming the president of a country with a 200-year history is being hailed across the globe.

The results of Mexico’s election which gave the country a historic outcome  were announced in early June. Sheinbaum received between 58.3% and 60.7% of the vote while the opposition candidate, Xóchitl Gálvez garnered between 26.6% and 28.6%. This was the first time in Mexico’s electoral history  that the two main opponents were women. In a rousing statement after coming to power, Sheinbaum, 61, said, “I do not arrive alone. We all arrived, with our heroines who gave us our homeland—with our mothers, our daughters and our granddaughters.”

Sheinbaum, who belongs to the ruling Morena Party, took over the reins from her political mentor and outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador who is popular among Mexico’s poor and working classes. Sheinbaum, a leftist, has a tough set of challenges to address such as Mexico’s high homicide rate, narcotics linked crime and trafficking, and government corruption. Mexicans hope her agenda will include taking action against the disturbingly high rate of femicides and gender based violence  in the country.

The new President will also need to define herself apart from her mentor. During the pandemic, she took a divergent approach from her mentor’s federal level approach. In Mexico city, where she was mayor, Sheinbaum encouraged testing, masking and social distancing and limited business hours in contrast to the federal level approach which discouraged coronavirus testing.

Obrador as President spent billions of dollars in boosting Mexico’s state energy companies which depend on fossil fuels. Sheinbaum, who is committed to increasing renewable energy as part of her campaign will have to walk a tightrope to steer Mexico away from the path of fossil fuel dependence. Her background as  an environmental engineer and climate scientist will help. She has contributed to two major reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

As the first female President of Mexico, Sheinbaum has already left her name in history. She will now need to address the sweeping challenges facing her country.

Urvashi Sarkar is an independent journalist who focuses on international politics, gender and culture.

Edited by Shalini Umachandran

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