Mexico City mayor eyes history in bid to be first female president

By Dave Graham and Diego Ore

MEXICOCITY – Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, a physicist by training who is vying to be the country’s first female president, hopes her environmental awareness and success in curbing crime will help put her in the running for election awards the top job in 2024.

Sheinbaum, a staunch ally of left-wing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has a slight edge over her rivals in recent opinion polls as she prepares to contest the ruling National Regeneration Movement’s presidential nomination (MORENA).

Sheinbaum, 60, is a strong supporter of the president-sponsored welfare programs that have helped solidify his power base and fight inequality across the country, and is seen by many within the party as his apparent ideological successor.

“I’ve been there in good times and bad (with Lopez Obrador),” she said in an interview with Reuters at the palatial city hall, pointing to a shared past with the president that dates back to her service as the capital’s environment minister, when he was mayor from 2000 to 2005.

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“The President’s projects need to be consolidated, I share the President’s vision of a Mexico with justice and a Mexico where the welfare state must play a fundamental role in development.”

The country will elect its next president in June 2024, and Sheinbaum and other potential candidates, including Secretary of State Marcelo Ebrard, have begun to crowd around him MORENA candidature, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

Lopez Obrador, barred from a second term by law, has dominated national politics since taking office in 2018 MORENA remains far more popular than the main opposition parties.

Should she succeed him, Sheinbaum, whose measured scientific restraint contrasted with Lopez Obrador’s combative approach to politics, said she was acutely aware of how symbolic this achievement would be for girls and women in Mexico and beyond.

“For me to represent that, just imagine the honor and responsibility that that means,” she said, hailing the example of Katya Echazarreta, who in June became the first Mexican-born woman to fly into space.

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Lopez Obrador’s drive to bolster the state’s oil and gas company and national energy utility — both heavily dependent on fossil fuels — at the expense of private wind and solar power companies has caused friction with the United States and other longtime allies.

The policy has also angered some on the Mexican left, anxious for the country to prioritize renewable energy sources.

Sheinbaum, who was a member of an intergovernmental panel on climate change that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, has defended Lopez Obrador’s efforts to achieve energy independence but also wants to capitalize on Mexico’s green energy reserves.

“I think it’s critical to really leverage the country’s renewable energy,” she said when asked how a Sheinbaum administration might differ from her predecessor, while emphasizing her support for Lopez Obrador’s vision for Mexico .

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Some have also pushed for higher taxation. When asked if she favored higher taxes, Sheinbaum declined a draw, saying the issue needed careful analysis.

Where Mexico City has diverged is in its success in reducing the gang-fueled violence that has ravaged the country for years.

The city has targeted problem areas, increased the number of police officers on the streets and their pay, Sheinbaum said, and more than quadrupled the number of CCTV cameras.

While the national number of homicides in 2021 barely declined from nearly 34,000 in 2018, Mexico City’s total homicide rate fell by well over a third over the same period.

This year, the nationwide number has eased somewhat. Mexico City is on track to reach half of its 2018 total.

Still, Sheinbaum said the improvement was due to close collaboration between city officials and federal forces.

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