Claudia Sheinbaum is Mexico’s First Female President But Not All Are Celebrating

Claudia Sheinbaum has been elected as Mexico's first female and first Jewish president

Claudia Sheinbaum Mexico president

Ruling party presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum greets supporters after the National Electoral Institute announced she held an irreversible lead in the election in Mexico City, early Monday, June 3, 2024. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Since 1824, Mexico has been ruled by male presidents until this year when history was made as Claudia Sheinbaum was elected as the first female president. Women have served in key government positions in Mexico including the Senate and Supreme Court and this election had two women in the lead. Climate scientist Sheinbum won the popular vote by an overwhelming 59.36 percent against fellow female candidate Xóchitl Gálvez. She became the first woman and the first Jewish president in Mexico. With over 35 million votes for her at the polls, she also broke the record for the highest number of votes ever recorded for a Mexican presidential candidate, previously held by current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who is also her mentor, during the 2018 elections. This October when she takes office, she will join the growing list of female presidents, past and present, in Latin America including Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina, Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua, and Xiomara Castro of Honduras. This historic win has lead to celebrations not just in Mexico but for Mexicans in the U.S. who were able to vote through the Consulate, yet the nation remains divided.

“I’m clear that the responsibility is huge, but when you have convictions and love for the people, anything is possible. We made history,” Sheinbaum said in an Instagram post announcing her victory.

Before pursuing her career in politics, the 61-year-old earned degrees from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and UC Berkeley in physics and energy engineering. After joining the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), she was part of a team that received the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to address climate change. In the 2000s, she began working in government as the Secretary of the Environment of Mexico City and since 2018, was serving as the Head of Government of Mexico City prior to the elections. She ran under the Morena party ticket, which was founded by President AMLO, with a number of campaign promises. These included promising to expand AMLO’s welfare policies, improve security against nationwide crime by giving more power to the military, reform the electoral institute, and invest in renewable and green energies. She will also be facing imminent negotiations with the U.S. regarding immigration and drug trafficking, as well as widespread electricity and water shortages.

Additionally, despite covering a number of issues in her policy agenda, she has sidestepped plans to address femicide, or gender-based violence against women, which continues to be on the rise throughout Mexico. This year alone, there have been 246 femicides, according to government data. And though the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to criminalize abortion in 2021, abortion is illegal in 19 different states, and many women, particularly from rural indigenous communities, face barriers to accessing abortion pills and contraception. Sheinbaum has publicly dismissed the issue in favor of other women’s rights and, in 2019, even tried to criminalize anti-femicide protestors in Mexico City, claiming the demonstrators were violent and committing acts of “provocation.”

“Neither candidate had a position on trans women’s rights. Neither spoke about lesbian women, Indigenous women, or disabled women,” Ericka López Sánchez, professor on gender and democracy for the Guanajuato University, told Context. “

“He’s a dictator, and Sheinbaum is his puppet,” Almarosa Anaya, who was outside a polling center in Mexico City, told NPR. She said AMLO wants to turn Mexico into a communist country, “like Venezuela and Cuba.”

But many are celebrating the historic win and what it could mean for the future of politics in Mexico to have a woman at the helm:

“Before, we couldn’t even vote, and when you could, it was to vote for the person your husband told you to vote for. Thank God that has changed and I get to live it,” Edelmira Montiel, 87 told Reuters, referring to the fact that women were only allowed to vote in national elections in 1953.

Sheinbaum will take office on Oct. 1.

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