The two appear an unlikely political pair: he is a shopkeeper’s son from rural southern Mexico, and she is a globally recognized scientist from the capital.
He is outgoing and folksy, a larger-than-life figure comfortable pressing the flesh and mingling with crowds. Her reserved manner and lack of charisma feed the notion that she is distant and arrogant.
When it comes to their politics, however, it is difficult to distinguish Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Claudia Sheinbaum, whose long history together has uniquely positioned her to succeed him as the country’s president next year.
Sheinbaum, who would be the first woman to hold the job, has cast her candidacy as a victory for feminism.
“Mexico is no longer written with the M of machismo,” she told tens of thousands of supporters gathered in the capital this month as she resigned from her job as Mexico City mayor to formally enter the race for president. “But rather M for mother, for mujer” — woman.
But her anointment by López Obrador — who is widely known as AMLO — and her wholesale adoption of his policies, leftist ideology, and even some of his speech patterns have led some pundits to wonder whether she is her own person.
“Claudia is not questioned for being a woman, but rather for mimicking a man and transforming herself to please AMLO,” tweeted Denise Dresser, a professor of political science at Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico and fierce critic of the populist president. “Nothing is more contrary to the agenda of autonomy/feminine empowerment that marks a new generation of women.”
Though 60-year-old Sheinbaum spent two decades in academia before starting her political career, she comes from a tradition of political engagement.
Both her parents were active in the signature Mexican student movement of 1968, best known for the infamous Tlatelolco massacre in which Mexican security forces killed scores of protesters in the capital.
As a high schooler, Sheinbaum participated in protests against the exclusion of students, many of them poor, from higher education. As a student at the Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM, she was part of a movement against a plan to raise fees at the public institution.
And her first husband was a leader in Mexico’s Democratic Revolution Party, which was formed in 1989 out of frustration on the left with the authoritarian rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which held an iron grip on Mexican governance for most of the 20th century.
Among the former PRI stalwarts who defected was López Obrador.
Sheinbaum, who spent four years at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on her way to earning a doctorate in energy engineering, was teaching at UNAM in the 1990s when a mutual friend introduced her to him.
When López Obrador was elected mayor of Mexico City in 2000, he launched Sheinbaum’s political career by making her secretary of environment for the capital.
Photos from that era show the tousle-haired academic smiling alongside the dashing insurgent politician.
She later joined his breakaway political group, the National Regeneration Movement, known as Morena, and was elected in 2015 as borough president of Tlalpan, a district in southern Mexico City.
Three years later, she was elected mayor of Mexico City and he was elected president.
Unlike her mentor, Sheinbaum is an uninspiring public speaker, sometimes drifting into techno-talk and utopian paens to her hometown.
“She would put Gandhi to sleep,” wrote columnist Juan Ignacio Zavala in El Financiero, referring to the famously truncated slumber habits of the late Indian leader.
Source: El Financiero