Mexicans Are on the Verge of Electing Their First Female President

By John Mercury May 30, 2024

Claudia Sheinbaum’s list of accolades is long: She has a Ph.D. and a shared Nobel Peace Prize and was the first woman elected to lead Mexico City, her nation’s capital and one of the largest cities in the Western Hemisphere.

Now she has another chance to make history. Ms. Sheinbaum, 61, is the clear front-runner in the Mexican election on Sunday, putting her in position to become the country’s first female president.

But she has an image problem, and she knows it.

Many Mexicans are wondering: Can she be her own leader? Or is she a pawn of the current president?

“There’s this idea, because a lot of columnists say it, that I don’t have a personality,” Ms. Sheinbaum complained to reporters earlier this year. “That President Andrés Manuel López Obrador tells me what to do, that when I get to the presidency, he’s going to be calling me on the phone every day.”

With the Mexican election just days away, Ms. Sheinbaum is facing a fundamental dilemma.

She insists she will govern independently from her mentor, Mr. López Obrador, and has some different priorities. But veering too far from his agenda could be very risky.

She and Mr. López Obrador are “different people,” she said in an interview. He’s an oilman who invested in environmentally questionable projects; she’s a climate scientist. Yet Ms. Sheinbaum has risen to the top in part by aligning herself completely with him, and by backing moves like his big bet on the national oil company and constitutional changes that critics call antidemocratic.

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