Can Claudia Sheinbaum become the next president of Mexico?

Claudia Sheinbaum

Mexico is a year away from electing its next head of state and the potential candidate getting the most attention is an environmental scientist who might become the first female leader of Latin America’s second-largest economy.

One poll shows Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum nearly 20 points ahead of her closest rival in their ruling party.

A globally recognized scientist, Sheinbaum, 60, shares the leftist ideals of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. In an interview with The Associated Press Sheinbaum, like López Obrador, blamed the neoliberal economic policies of past presidents for exacerbating inequities.

But the leaders would diverge in their approach.

López Obrador has sought to create jobs regardless of their environmental consequences, dedicating resources to propping up Mexico’s state-owned oil company before supporting a few projects by American renewable-energy companies. In contrast, Sheinbaum holds a Ph.D. in engineering, served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won a shared Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, and pledges to commit Mexico to sustainability.

She emphasizes her belief in all scientific findings, in fields from the environment to medicine.

“I believe in science,” she said. “I believe in technology to have a better life.”

López Obrador last year inaugurated a massive new oil refinery in his home state of Tabasco, saying that his government had decided to ignore “the siren calls … that the oil era was over.”

Despite the refinery’s inauguration, it has not started operation.

At the same time, López Obrador has passed laws putting private gas and renewable energy facilities last in line for power purchasing, behind government-owned plants that often burn dirty fuel oil. He has more recently applauded a new government-run solar facility in northern Mexico and celebrated Tesla’s decision to build a car manufacturing plant near Monterrey, moves seen as feeding his interests in fueling job growth and satisfying U.S. complaints about a lack of free trade.

Sheinbaum’s Jewish grandparents emigrated from Lithuania and Bulgaria but she was raised not practicing any religion in overwhelmingly Catholic Mexico.

The formal campaign has not officially started, but one topic that has not become an issue is gender. Nine of Mexico’s 32 states have female governors. And even though gender-based violence remains a problem nationwide, along with daily sexism, Sheinbaum says that her gender has no negative impact on her aspirations today.

With information from El Financiero

The Mexico City Post